SI Vault
 
A BUNT THAT WENT BOOM!
Larry Keith
July 31, 1978
For bunting when Manager Billy Martin ordered him to swing away, Reggie Jackson was suspended, and so began a chain of tumultuous events that culminated in Martin's resignation
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 31, 1978

A Bunt That Went Boom!

For bunting when Manager Billy Martin ordered him to swing away, Reggie Jackson was suspended, and so began a chain of tumultuous events that culminated in Martin's resignation

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

Steinbrenner, who was at his home in Tampa, was shocked when he learned of the outburst. He responded by sending Rosen to Kansas City to meet with Martin. The manager had made his decision to quit even before Rosen arrived and even though he denied he made the comments attributed to him. Regardless of what Martin may have said—and The New York Times ' Murray Chass, who covered Billy's outburst, is one of the most reliable reporters around—there can be no doubt that he was thinking along the lines described in newspaper reports. He made similar comments to a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer in his clubhouse shortly after Sunday's game.

Martin's tirade brought into the open his dislike for Steinbrenner and Jackson, even though his relationship with the two men had improved this year. And it also jeopardized Martin's income for the next year and a half, because there is a special provision in his contract stating that it can be terminated if Billy openly criticizes Steinbrenner.

The owner believed the resignation was for the best—for Billy, for the club and for himself. Certainly it may have been best for Martin. Yankee management had indicated that if Martin coupled his resignation with an apology, he would still be paid by the Yankees until the end of the 1979 season. As late as Sunday afternoon, just a few hours before the airport blowup, Martin had said, "I've got to be careful what I say about George. I need the money." He said that speaking out would cost him his salary, which is about $80,000 for 1979.

Whether Martin picks up his 80 grand, plus his salary for the remainder of this season, depended on how Steinbrenner viewed Billy's resignation statement that "I'm sorry about some things that were printed. I did not say them." Steinbrenner accepted Martin's denial, instead of seeing it as stonewalling, as he well might have. Certainly the walls of Martin's kingdom had come crumbling down around him. A few seconds after making his denial, Billy was overcome by emotion. The man who minutes before had opened his press conference by proudly saying, "I'm a Yankee," tearfully left the room, a Yankee no more.

1 2 3 4