March 6, 2024

Billy Martin, baseball player

You never know when you’re going to have a Minnesota Twins moment.

There I was, along with my son, at a baseball card shop in Centralia, Washington, over the weekend where under the counter glass I spotted what appeared to be a card of Billy Martin. But it wasn’t a card of him as a manager, but as a player for the Twins in 1961.

That’s right: Before he was a controversial manager for the Yankees, A’s, Rangers, Tigers and Twins, Martin played the game for 11 seasons, most memorably for those Yankees. But he ended his career in Minnesota after the Twins traded to get him early in the 1961 season.

It wasn’t a season of distinction for Martin or the Twins, the team’s first in Minnesota. He slashed .246/.275/.361 for a team that lost 90 games. However, he did have his share of multi-hit games throughout the season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Some of those games:

-On June 30, 1961, Martin had three hits in five at bats and drove in three runs in an 8-2 win over the Kansas City Athletics.

-On Aug. 16, Martin again collected three hits, scored a run and drove in a run in a 12-7 loss to those same A’s.

-On Aug. 31, Martin had a 3-for-3 day against his old club the New York Yankees in a 5-4 win.

-On Sept. 23, Martin had three more hits in a 10-0 win over the Washington Senators in the second game of a doubleheader. Camilo Pascual delivered a complete game two-hitter with seven whiffs.

-On Sept. 29, Martin again had three hits, including a triple and home run in a 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

I was hoping to find a quote or two from Martin about his performance in some of those games, but newspaper game stories in those days were largely narrative recaps. However, longtime Minnesota sports columnist Sid Hartman caught up with him.

Here’s what Martin had to say under a headline that reads, “Martin likes Twins, wants to stay here”

“Sure, I may have slowed up a step. But I don’t mean to brag when I say I don’t have to take a back seat to many second basemen in the majors.

“Contrary to what some people think, there is nothing wrong with my arm. I think I proved that Tuesday night on that long relay.

“I never had a lot of natural ability. I got by on speed, a good arm, and I was strong for a little guy. My ability to think in the field made up for what I lacked in other departments.

“I was hitting good here until I hurt my leg. I like this club and think it has a good future. I want to be part of that future.”

Sounds like Billy. He would go on to be a scout, base coach, minor league manager and manager of the Twins for the remainder of the decade.

Extra innings…

-The Twins had split squad wins on Monday, a 7-2 win over the Orioles and a 4-3 win against the Braves.

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.