Synopses & Reviews
The definitive biography of one of baseballandrsquo;s most celebrated, mercurial, and misunderstood figuresand#160;
Billy Martin is a story of contrasts. He was the clutch second baseman for the dominant New York Yankees of the 1950s. He then spent sixteen seasons managing in the big leagues, and is considered by anyone who knows baseball to have been a true baseball genius, a field manager without peer. Yet heandrsquo;s remembered more for his habit of kicking dirt on umpires, for being hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five times, and for his rabble rousing and public brawls. He was combative, fiery, intimidating, and controversial, yet beloved by the everyday fan. He was hard on his players and even harder on himself. He knew how to turn around a losing team like no one elseandmdash;and how to entertain us every step of the way.
Now, with his definitive biography Billy Martin, Pennington finally erases the caricature of Martin. Drawing on exhaustive interviews with friends, family, teammates, and countless adversaries, Pennington paints an indelible portrait of a man who never backed down for the game he loved. From his shantytown upbringing in a broken home; to his days playing for the Yankees when he almost always helped his team find a way to win; through sixteen years of managing, including his tenure in New York in the crosshairs of Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin made sure no one ever ignored him. And indeed no one could. He was the hero, the antihero, and the alter egoandmdash;or some combination of all threeandmdash;for his short sixty-one years among us.
"Great bat, no personality is the conclusion in this genial biography of the St. Louis Cardinals slugger. New York Times sports columnist Vecsey (Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game) insists that the Hall of Famer's 475 homers and .331 lifetime batting average put him in the company of hallowed contemporaries Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Alas, where the aloof Yankee Clipper and the cantankerous Splendid Splinter shared a prickly charisma, Stan the Man even a stolid nickname was 'the boring one.' Vecsey chronicles Musial's enormously successful if oddly uneventful career, his nonracist (though not outspokenly so) behavior as baseball was desegregating, his kind and self-effacing manner, his happy marriage, his cordial relations with umpires, even his lawn-mowing. A coiled, crouching, butt-waggling batting stance is his only eccentricity. A sportswriter to the bone, Vecsey clothes his subject's colorlessness in stirring metaphor and world-historical allusion: if DiMaggio and Williams were 'the stormy Himalayas,' Musial was 'the weathered Appalachians,' he rhapsodizes, and caps his account of the Cards' 1946 World Series victory with the news that 'less than two hours later, ten Nazi leaders were hanged.' Unfortunately, no amount of manful writing and extraneous anecdote can redeem the basic dullness of Musial's story. Photos. (May 10)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
andquot;Energetically reported and skillfully written, the book is enormously entertaining. Without pretension, it explores the question whether a baseball lifer can actually be a tragic figure in the classic senseandmdash;a man destroyed by the very qualities than made him great.andquot;
andmdash;The Wall Street Journal
andldquo;Through interviews with Martinandrsquo;s long-silent widow, his son and others who knew and played with and for him, we get a complete picture andmdash; womanizing, drinking, fighting and the rest.andrdquo;and#160;
andmdash;New York Postand#160;andldquo;Sprawlingandhellip;thorough research.andrdquo;and#160;
andmdash;Chicago Tribuneand#160;andldquo;Itand#39;s all here, copiously reported, including interviews with more than 200 people, many of whom have since died, making this a one-of-a-kind work.andrdquo;and#160;
andquot;All the notable moments are here...Baseball (and Yankees) fans will devour this like ballpark popcorn, and all will muse about the many what-ifs of Martinand#39;s motley life.andquot;and#160;
andmdash;Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEWand#160;
andquot;Martinandrsquo;s life was a rollicking one, and as with the life, so with the book. Penningtonandrsquo;s take is great fun, and the authorandrsquo;s drive to talk to everyone who may have known Martinandmdash;from the most arrogant star to the humblest bartenderandmdash;is impressive.andquot;and#160;
andquot;A motley cast of baseball Hall of Famers, including Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, Ricky Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Tommy Lasorda, and Earl Weaver, make appearances in this must-read for fans of the great American pastime.andquot;and#160;
andquot;[Pennington] provides what is likely to be the definitive profile, which, as such, belongs in most library sports collections, especially those where Yankee fans cluster.andquot;
andmdash;Mark Levine, Booklistand#160;
and#160;andquot;His study of Martin is comprehensive and detailed, offering the reader rich details on his early years and his time as a player for several teams...Pennington expertly combines material from his subjectandrsquo;s personal and professional life, leaving the impression of a complicated and flawed but unforgettable man.andquot;and#160;
andldquo;Two words of advice: read this. Bill Pennington not only writes the sprawling, brawling, no-punches-pulled narrative Martin deserves, but also deftly illuminates the humanity of one of baseballand#39;s epic characters.andrdquo;
andmdash;Tom Verducci, bestselling author of THE YANKEE YEARS (with Joe Torre)
andquot;The hair on my forearms was standing up by the end of the fifth paragraph of this bookand#39;s introduction. I knew Billy Martin. I covered Billy Martin. But I never knew him like this. Congrats to Bill Pennington for the definitive work on baseballand#39;s flawed genius.and#39;and#39;
andmdash;Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe columnist and bestselling author of FRANCONA (with Terry Francona) and SENIOR YEAR
andldquo;Billy Martin has been dead for 25 years? Wow. That means thereand#39;s a generation or two that know nothing about this character of baseball characters, this incandescent ballplayer/manager/jerk/sweetheart, this irrepressible brawler with a grand mind for the game. Bill Pennington cures all that and#160;with and#39;Billy Martin, Baseballand#39;s Flawed Genius.and#39; This is a terrific tale about a roller coaster life. Pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy. The descriptions of the fistfights alone are worth the price of admission.andrdquo;
andmdash;Leigh Montville, bestselling author of TED WILLIAMS, THE BIG BAM and EVEL
andldquo;It has been easy to think of Billy Martin as a cartoon--one created by the media and abetted by the man himself. But he was a great American, as important to understanding our game, and our nation, as Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio. Youand#39;ll never think of Billy Martin in the same way again, thanks to Bill Penningtonand#39;s masterpiece of a biography.andrdquo;
andmdash;John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball
“Although Stan Musial is universally regarded as one of baseball's greatest players, he is nevertheless underrated. He played far from the national media spotlight, in America's best baseball city, St. Louis. (One reason it is the best: Musial played there.) And his amazing consistency--he got 1,815 hits on the road and 1,815 at home—made him unspectacularly spectacular. Happily, and at long last, George Vecsey has taken Musial's measure in this delightful biography of a man and a baseball era.”
“A fascinating and profound look at the most underrated great player of all time, and one of the true gentlemen of the game, Stan Musial. No one researches a book like George Vecsey. I learned something on every page.”
—Tim Kurkjian, Senior Writer for ESPN the Magazine and analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter
From an award-winning New York Times sports columnist, the definitive biography of one of baseball's most celebrated, mercurial, and misunderstood figuresand#8212;legendary manager and baseball genius, Billy Martin
About the Author
George Vecsey, a sports columnist for The New York Times, has written about such events as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics but considers baseball, the sport he’s covered since 1960, his favorite game. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game and Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter (with Loretta Lynn), which was made into an Academy Award–winning film. He has also served as a national and religion reporter for The New York Times, interviewing the Dalai Lama, Tony Blair, Billy Graham, and a host of other noteworthy figures. He lives in New York with his wife, Marianne, an artist.