By Brian Kingman
Billy Martin was well known for drinking to excess and for rowdy behavior when drinking. A group of Yankees met at the famous Copacabana nightclub to celebrate Martin’s 29th birthday; the party ultimately erupted into a much publicized brawl, which resulted in Billy being traded to the Kansas City A’s. This would run his ‘fight record” to 4-1, as well as separate him from his beloved Yankees and his best friend Mickey Mantle.
Then 25 years after the Copa, and 13 years after his fight with Dave Boswell, Billy entered uncharted waters. In June of 1982 while the Oakland A’s were on a road trip in Kansas City, Billy got into a heated conversation with me that he felt he wanted to finish outside. Whereas Boswell was a 20 game winner in 1969 (also the year of his fight with Billy) I was a 20 game loser. Never, I repeat NEVER! underestimate the underlying rage and frustrations that losing 20 games can produce. Especially with a 20 game loser who had been seething over being called a dummy for pitch selection by his manager, who had called the pitches! That was our topic of conversation that wonderful night in Kansas City.
Once outside on that humid night in Kansas City I was ready for Billy’s renowned cheap shot antics. I also knew there was little to no danger. If Billy even landed a punch it was unlikely to have much of an impact. He enjoyed his reputation as a fighter, and wearing his black cowboy hat. I respected all of that and the fact that he was a great manager (on the field) but no, I’m sorry, ain’t no one gonna be kicking my ass…..with just a big mouth a cowboy hat and a reputation. They’re gonna have to bring it on!
So there we were face to face with Billy’s coaches nearby for his protection. He was yelling at me and I yelled back at him. Then he started to jab his finger in my chest. After the second or third time poking me in the chest, sure enough, here came the sucker punch. But I was waiting for it and grabbed his arm gave it a twist and had him in a head lock. I handed him to a coach for safe keeping, just as the rest of the coaches were jumping in to separate us. Art Fowler the pitching coach punched me in the face but I believe it was for Billy to see and hear about as evidence of Art coming to his defense, because there was nothing behind the punch. Rickey (Henderson) was there but I think he was just trying to keep from laughing at this point. But I was glad he was there for two reasons. One was that you never know what can happen and two, you never know what the “official version” of what happened will be unless you have at least one credible witness. Rickey was willing to get involved even though he had nothing to gain and that should tell you all you need to know about Rickey as a teammate. The next day I gave Art a thank you card and offering a rematch signed “Muhammad Ali Kingman” and we all laughed about it. Well at least Art and I did. Yes I am calling it a KO because that was the ultimate outcome if the fight hadn’t been stopped….by ME!
Later that year Billy took on the wall in his office, but we decided the wall won from the look of Billy’s hands and his defeated look that night. I did hear that Billy got the better of a porcelain urinal the next season. Can’t imagine what the urinal did to piss him off, but I am sure they had an interesting conversation before it came to blows. In 1985 Ed Whitson administered Billy’s final ass kicking, helping to avenge the losses incurred by Tommy Lasorda, Jim Brewer and Dave Boswell–who I am sure were all smiling when they heard the news. I know I was.
I’m only mildly ashamed to now admit that I watched the soap opera Santa Barbara.
I know you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I never could stand Billy Martin. He really needed his ass kicked on more than one occasion.
Did Brian Kingman really write this? If so, he’s got a very good sense of humor!
Now try to get DAVE Kingman to write a guest column on your blog. And GOOD LUCK with that! As much as I loved him as a Met, he has never been known to be the most amiable person in the world!
As far as Billy Martin, both my grandfather and I couldn’t stand him! Particularly my grandfather! OH, how he despised Billy Martin! And I don’t care about “speaking ill of the dead” in the case of Billy Martin. He drank, he drove, he got what he deserved. I’m just glad that he didn’t kill anyone but himself. I’m sorry, that’s just how I feel. And I feel that way about drunken drivers in general, not just Billy Martin.
And if you still believe the line that we were all fed, that Martin WASN’T at the wheel of his the pickup truck, then I advise that you read this excellent book—–
By the way, the book reveals that he was even MORE of a schmuck than we all THOUGHT he was.
I, too, thought at first, this would be about Dave Kingman (sorry, Brian; didn’t see the earlier interview); my thought being reinforced by knowing Dave is real jerk.
Yes. Brian Kingman wrote this on his personal blog. I emailed him for permission to reprint it. He’s a really nice guy with a funny sense of humor. As soon as I get some free time I’m going to interview him…look for it in the near future.
Dave Kingman would be a funny interview! He’s actually a pretty good signer through the mail. I think he’s trying to be more amiable in his old age. If you want to email me some questions I would gladly send them to him!
If I could FIND that Billy Martin book, I would be one happy fellow!
Thanks for the comments Glen, and glad to see the blog is back.
You are a nonfactor Ed Whitsom. Just be an afterthought to history and a bitch. Billy Martin is a legend.
Yeah, Reggie is a legend in his own mind, just like the candy bar named after him. LOL!!
Good for you Brian! I was always hoping there would be someone to come along and give Billy what he needed a long, long time ago. I read his autobiography, “#1′, years ago, about the Marshmallow salesman going down like a sack of potatoes after Billy sucker punched him. Bill was a scrapper for his size, but he knew exactly who to pick fights with. That’s one of the reasons he embarrassed Reggie Jackson by pulling him off the field at Fenway Park in 1977 in front of a national t.v. audience. He knew Reggie was all mouth, and it would make Billy look even tougher after kicking the bigger Reggie Jackson’s ass in front of a sell out crowd and t.v. cameras. Anyone who followed the game closely back then knew about Reggie vs. Billy North, and the time Jackson almost got choked to death by Mike Epstein after he decked Reggie and jumped on top of him. Gene Tenace said he had a hell of a time getting Epstein off of Reggie. ‘Mr. November’ was lucky Billy was held back, and lucky Reggie didn’t say the ‘magic word’ that would caused Martin to go crazier than he was on that beautiful day in Boston.