Picks and Pans Review: Number 1

UPDATED 09/22/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/22/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Billy Martin and Peter Golenbock

To the extent that baseball is still the national pastime, Billy Martin is the national disgrace. In 11 seasons as a player, he hit only .257 (despite an excellent .333 in World Series play). The only two pennants he has won as a manager were with the stacked decks handed him by profligate Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Martin is best known for being belligerent, a cap pistol constantly waiting to explode, and this autobiography is a tedious apologia for his career. Martin mostly blames others for persecuting him. Among those he suggests had something against him are his sixth-grade teacher, MPs in the Army, his onetime manager Joe Gordon, Colombian authorities who were rough with his daughter after her arrest for alleged cocaine smuggling and, of course, Steinbrenner, who, among other faults, is accused of not taking Martin to lunch enough. Martin also laments that he is so small (though he was officially listed at 5'11½", 165 pounds as a player). Jim Brewer, one opponent Martin fought with, was not, as Billy describes him, 6'4" and 215; he was 6'1", 186. Golenbock, who wrote The Bronx Zoo with Sparky Lyle, serves Martin less well in this book, sprinkling it with misspelled names and crass scatological language even when Martin discusses his mother. Both authors cop out. Martin insists he tries to avoid fights even as he preens over his punching power. He says he never apologized for socking Reno writer Ray Hagar, not mentioning the press conference where he admitted, "I'm very sorry I hit Ray." Martin even disowned parts of this book before it went on sale. Despite his prating about "the Yankee way," his behavior remains, in print as well as on the field, bush. (Delacorte, $11.95)

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