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A popular sportswriter chronicles the explosive and extraordinary career of high-living baseball legend Billy Martin, a controversial and tormented figure blessed with many talents but cursed with psychological demons. 50,000 first printing.
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Golenbock barely stays within the foul lines in this Baseball Babylon catalogue of the late Yankees manager's career, his celebrated fistfights, hangovers, trysts with underage women, and battles with owners, players, and the press. In an overlong effort, Golenbock (Fenway: An Unexpurgated History of the Boston Red Sox, 1992, etc.) competently reviews Martin's playing days in the 1950s and his drunken carousings with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. He brings insight into the father- son relationship he had with Casey Stengel and their eventual falling-out. And Golenbock does a good job of retracing Martin's managerial odyssey: AAA Denver in 1968; winning the division with the Minnesota Twins in 1969 and being fired after the playoffs; his turnaround of the Detroit Tigers in 1971, capped by taking the division the following season, and then dismissal after a tumultuous 1973; being named Manager of the Year in 1974 for resurrecting the hapless Texas Rangers only to be fired in July 1975; then, his achievement of a lifelong dream in being named to manage the New York Yankees. All the well-publicized hirings and firings (five times by the Yankees), the womanizing and bar brawls, and the ugly fights with George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brewer, and others are here. While any biography of Martin would have to include Steinbrenner, Golenbock uses an inordinate amount of space to go after the domineering, controversial Yankees owner (a ``weak, self-centered tyrant'' and ``a real jock sniffer''). Steinbrenner's youth and teen years at Culver Military Academy, etc., receive lengthier, more detailed attention than Martin's background and childhood. And in asides to his recounting of the messy details of the 1989 auto accident that killed Martin, Golenbock takes his widow, Jill--and Steinbrenner--to task for having ``killed his spirit'' and ``ruined his life.'' Much of this is a rehashing of the author's earlier books on the Yankees, but it will, nonetheless, stir up controversy by reopening old wounds. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
The late Billy Martin was one of the most controversial figures in modern baseball history and one of the most mercurial. Golenbock, the best-selling author or coauthor of numerous, high-profile sports bios, coauthored Martin's autobiography, Number 1, in 1980 and believes this volume to be a kind of sequel to that earlier effort. Though Golenbock acknowledges early and often that most of Martin's problems stemmed from his ever-escalating alcoholism, the beleaguered manager is portrayed as the victim of egocentric players, owners, and wives. The vast majority of the book focuses on Martin's hate-hate relationship with New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, who hired and fired Martin five times. Steinbrenner will not be inviting Golenbock to any cocktail parties. The Yankee owner emerges here as an insecure egomaniac born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Steinbrenner, according to Golenbock, wanted to take credit for Martin's success and sought to humiliate his manager by planting "informed source" pieces in New York papers. Martin's temper--fueled by booze--would then erupt, and the battle would be on. Though Golenbock is obviously sympathetic to Martin, the overall impression here is of a life badly out of control. Provocative reading for Yankee fans. Wes Lukowsky
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