Reggie Jackson spoke with Bob Costas for a documentary that will air on the MLB Network on Monday and during that conversation he spoke of his former manager Billy Martin. He didn’t speak well of him:
“I did not accept the way he managed me. I did not accept the way he managed Ken Holtzman. I thought there was anti-Semitism there. … I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t accept the racial epithets in reference to players like Elliott Maddox or Billy Sample.”
“The most disturbing part of it all is that the writers that covered the team never made mention of it and were completely aware of it.”
Martin’s son defended his father, saying that Billy’s baseball decisions were made solely on baseball merit. Which, it probably should be noted, isn’t a defense to the charge that Martin issued epithets at people even if it does speak somewhat to the way Martin “managed” them in tactical baseball terms, to use Jackson’s phrase.
Martin has been dead for nearly 22 years, so he can neither defend himself nor could he have undergone the sort of change of heart about such matters many men of his era and temperament experienced in their calmer, more mature years that Martin didn’t get to experience. Add in Jackson’s historic hyperbole and rather egocentric view of the world and you get half of the story at best here.
That said, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Jackson were spot on here because, well, Martin was Martin and he grew up in the 30s and 40s and that explains a lot about a person. It’s just something, though, that we really can’t and probably shouldn’t do much with at this point other than to fill out the rich, sordid biography of Billy Martin.