Like most books by or about successful athletes, the second volume of Billy Martin’s memoirs is designed for the kind of fan who is always ready for more material about his sport. It is hard to imagine anyone not familiar with and fascinated by baseball being particularly interested in Martin’s comments and observations, but for the enthusiast, BILLYBALL provides an opportunity to experience again the highlights of Martin’s volatile career.
Following a well-established and familiar pattern, Martin covers the subjects one has come to expect in a first-person account by a prominent athlete. There is a brief sketch of his early life and his introduction to baseball; a section covering the highlights of his best games; information about his most famous teammates (from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle) and adversaries; comments on his managerial career with six teams, including four stints with the New York Yankees; an exceptionally informative section on his managerial strategy (“A Manual of Managing”); and, most appropriately, justifications for all of his actions during the altercations that have marked his contentious life in the big leagues.
Most of the anecdotal material has appeared before, and Martin’s evaluations of other athletes are not especially original, although they are based on astute observation and a very thorough knowledge of the game. What makes the book almost perversely appealing is Martin’s famous feisty personality, which he and his collaborator Phil Pepe have captured and conveyed very effectively.
Whether one likes and admires Martin and his methods, it is obvious that he knows the game, and his ultimate claim to be a true Yankee is substantiated by his accounts of his commitment to the team’s success. One may not think of him in terms of the quiet dignity and pride of a Lou Gehrig, but his contribution to the Yankee mystique is probably no less significant than that of the other members of that august company whose team numbers have been retired in their honor.