On the field Martin mixes freely with his players, fielding pregame grounders and joking in his rather high-pitched voice, but sometimes it is possible to sense the fine line he treads, by nature, between being provocative and being provoking. It is hard to imagine his ever becoming venerable. The "Dead End Kid" who fought his way up seems to abide in him still—a fresh, awkward recruit, innocently determined to be the best Marine possible, covered over by a hard but semitransparent layer of drill instructor.
"Billy was always stuck with the label of a kid," says Quilici. "He would tell people to do things before he was manager, and they'd think he didn't know what he was talking about."
Yet Martin says he was resolved to hold on to his job as third-base coach for the security. But his wife Gretchen talked him into taking the Denver job—she says she knew managing was what he really wanted to do. "When he said he wanted to go to Denver," says Twins President Calvin Griffith, "I told him he was a damn fool. He was valuable as a coach, and I had no idea he'd ever be our manager. His biggest fault was his temperament. [As late as 1966, he hit Vice-President Howard Fox in the eye.] But he learned to control it. I went down there and watched him manage, and I liked what I saw."
Martin bought his first home in 1962, in suburban Richfield near the Twins' park, and he spends his scant free time there wrestling with his 4-year-old boy Billy Joe, growing eggplant and tomatoes (which he had to can himself one year when Gretchen was sick) and working around the house. "He's one of those people who just have to be doing something all the time," says Mrs. Martin, a Nebraskan and former airline stewardess. When the Twins lose, she says, "I don't even try to console him. I'm sure I couldn't."
"She's actually got a bad temper," Martin says happily. "She's the one who gets mad all the time around the house. But she's a very level-headed, intelligent woman, and a very pretty one. We've been married going on 10 years, and I couldn't have picked a better girl."
Undoubtedly, then, he is more settled personally than in 1955, when his first wife left him saying you "can't stay in love with a newspaper clipping." And he appears to have channeled his poping-off instinct into a good technique for handling men. He coaxed Versalles in '65 into the best year of his checkered career, Martin says, not by being solicitous, but by giving him hell carefully and away from everyone else, so as not to hurt his pride.
"The day after he chews you out," says Quilici, "he'll sit down and talk it out with you, explain it, and you'll know where you stand. And he'll play you again in the same situation."
On a recent sweltering day in Kansas City, Carew was slow to cover second, and the resultant stolen base contributed to Boswell's being knocked out of the box. Boswell came into the dugout tearing his shirt to shreds, shouting and waving in the direction of Carew. It was an unseemly show, but Martin understands temper. He talked it out with Boswell and then told Carew what the situation was and what he'd done wrong, and eventually the air was clear.
Another time Martin went out to Boswell, who hates to leave a game, and asked him if he was tired. Boswell admitted that he was, and Martin took him out. "After the game I told Boswell, 'Now you've come of age. Now you're interested in the ball club.'
" 'You know, Billy,' he told me, 'you're the first man I've ever told the truth to.'