WILD, HIGH AND TIGHT by Peter Golenbock


The Life and Death of Billy Martin
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 Golenbock barely stays within the foul lines in this Baseball Babylon catalogue of the late Yankees manager's career, his celebrated fistfights, hangovers, trysts with underage women, and battles with owners, players, and the press. In an overlong effort, Golenbock (Fenway: An Unexpurgated History of the Boston Red Sox, 1992, etc.) competently reviews Martin's playing days in the 1950s and his drunken carousings with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. He brings insight into the father- son relationship he had with Casey Stengel and their eventual falling-out. And Golenbock does a good job of retracing Martin's managerial odyssey: AAA Denver in 1968; winning the division with the Minnesota Twins in 1969 and being fired after the playoffs; his turnaround of the Detroit Tigers in 1971, capped by taking the division the following season, and then dismissal after a tumultuous 1973; being named Manager of the Year in 1974 for resurrecting the hapless Texas Rangers only to be fired in July 1975; then, his achievement of a lifelong dream in being named to manage the New York Yankees. All the well-publicized hirings and firings (five times by the Yankees), the womanizing and bar brawls, and the ugly fights with George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brewer, and others are here. While any biography of Martin would have to include Steinbrenner, Golenbock uses an inordinate amount of space to go after the domineering, controversial Yankees owner (a ``weak, self-centered tyrant'' and ``a real jock sniffer''). Steinbrenner's youth and teen years at Culver Military Academy, etc., receive lengthier, more detailed attention than Martin's background and childhood. And in asides to his recounting of the messy details of the 1989 auto accident that killed Martin, Golenbock takes his widow, Jill--and Steinbrenner--to task for having ``killed his spirit'' and ``ruined his life.'' Much of this is a rehashing of the author's earlier books on the Yankees, but it will, nonetheless, stir up controversy by reopening old wounds.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-10575-4
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1994


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