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Reggie Jackson accuses Billy Martin of being a racist and anti-semite

Oct 28, 2011, 12:46 PM EDT

Billy Martin

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.”

Then in the Bergan Record he expanded on those thoughts:

“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.

  1. Jack Marshall - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    I believe Jackson’s accusations are plausible; there is not much bad I wouldn’t believe of Billy Martin. On the other hand, Jackson had ample time to make this claim while Martin was alive. Bringing all this out now is beneath Reggie, or I thought it was.

    • bklynbaseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      Oh, yeah sure. Because a black man accusing a white man of racism in 1977 would have been taken seriously, and there would have been an unbiased, objective, and thorough investigation. Either you were not around in 1977, or are just clueless.

      • whyalwaysthehate - Oct 28, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        Remember, Billy played with Whitey Ford.

    • yankeesgameday - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Reggie was responding to a specific question by costas, which is very different than bringing this up out of the blue to trash the guy. Jackson just told the truth as he saw it and there are thousands of baseball folk who can either confirm or deny if they witnessed it.

      Reggie really shouldn’t be the target or the story here. Craig is spot on, this just mostly adds to Martin’s bio and how that era should be viewed.

      And it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves this was, and still is am issue all of us deal with.

      But as Rae Dawn Chong said in the seminal film “Soul Man”, “you don’t really know what it’s like to be black because you could always go back to being white any time that you wanted.”

      And yeah, I just whipped out a Rae Dawn Chong quote from “soul man”.

      Damn straight.

      • yankeeinidaho - Oct 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        Seriously! Have you ever met Jackson? He has a very serious case of ‘Reggitis’! Doesn’t matter what color his skin is, his holier than thou attitude is what makes him offensive!

      • The Baseball Idiot - Oct 28, 2011 at 9:05 PM

        An amazing coincidence that this is all being made public the day after Freese hits a walk off in game six.

        I think Reggie thinks Game Six homeruns belong to him, and he doesn’t like to get up staged.

    • uncleb10 - Oct 28, 2011 at 6:34 PM

      I don’t know whether Billy Martin was a racist/anti semite but I don’t doubt it considering the era he was broguht up in. I do know that Reggie is a womanizer and a sexist. I have seen this first hand.

  2. purnellmeagrejr - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Someone once suggested renaming alcoholism Billy Martin’s Disease.

  3. miketreedy - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Reggie Jackson is an a******. You don’t attack people when they are no longer alive to defend themselves. The more he talks the more Jackson hurts his own legacy.

    • bklynbaseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      Spoken like someone who truly was not around in 1977.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      That’s why we should always speak highly of Adolph Hitler, and Pol Pot. SMH……… “Attacking” was a very exaggerated term you used there. I’d say recalling the past is more likely.

      • miketreedy - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        I was around in 1977. Are you really comparing Martin to Hitler. What Hitler did has been proven so obviously he can be talked about. What Jackson is saying is his opinion and Martin can’t defend himself. That is a very big difference.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:41 PM

        “I was around in 1977. Are you really comparing Martin to Hitler. What Hitler did has been proven so obviously he can be talked about. What Jackson is saying is his opinion and Martin can’t defend himself. That is a very big difference.”

        No, I’m not comparing Martin to Hitler. Read it again if you wish. You said “You don’t attack people when they are no longer alive to defend themselves.” People verbally attack the examples I listed, rightfully so. So if they aren’t alive this should end? That’s what you’re implying.
        On top of that, Jackson wasn’t attacking anyone. As far as he’s concerned it isn’t his “opinion” he’s recalling factual events. You’re implying that he should keep his mouth shut because Martin is dead, and because he’s an “A***********” for talking about things he experienced. I don’t, and won’t agree.

    • paperlions - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      The fact that someone is dead is not a reason to not tell the truth about them. Nixon was a parnoid ass hat…that fact that he is dead should not change anyone’s opinion of him because in dying he didn’t become someone else…if someone was an asshole when they were alive…dying doesn’t change that and it should not change the way we remember them just because we are no longer subjected to their actions.

  4. Fat Al - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    This is old news, and I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that Billy Martin was prone to anti-Semitic outbursts. See, for example, footnote 77 here:

    • unconventionalidiot - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      It’s weird that this IS apparently old news but is just now getting attention. Based on your link, it appears Reggie’s been talking about this for a while.

  5. bklynbaseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Look folks, it’s not about defending Reggie here. In those days, in the mainstream media, being a racist wasn’t that big a deal; most people were. If Reggie had said anything back then, the reaction would have been “shut up [insert racist epithet here] and be happy we’re letting you play this game and make as much money as you’re making!”
    In the 70’s, being treated as less-than-equal because you’re black was common, and objecting to it publically was dangerous – even fatal – depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you were on.

    • philsieg - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      I’m not sure you were alive in 1977, or at least you were an adult. I’m not going to suggest it was all sweetness and light, but 13 years after the Civil Right Act was signed into law, the legal framework for addressing charges of discrimination in the workplace was well established. I cannot imagine the mainstream media trading in overtly racist commentary complete with the epithets. A prominent African American could certainly have got a hearing for his grievances, not the least in the court of public opinion.

      This is not to say that racist dialogue did not go on behind closed doors or that African-Americans and other minorities did not meet with overt racism and unequal treatment. That’s obvious because those conditions persist to this day. It’s also not to suggest that gaining redress for these grievances was an easy path.

      But you talk about the ’70s like Jim Crow was thriving and the days when “Negro deaths” were listed in a separate obituary section were alive and well. You seem to think the ’70s can be described by the photos found here. I grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line in the ’40s and’50s. Trust me. The ’70s did not look or feel like that.

      Again for emphasis…I don’t think nor am I arguing for an absence of racism. Nor am I criticizing Reggie for his response to an interviewer’s question. But he doesn’t need made-up history to give him cover.

      • bklynbaseball - Oct 30, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        philsieg, please don’t be offended, but are you white or black? No, I didn’t have my own apartment or car in ’77, but I was old enough to see and understand what was going on around me. It just seems to me like revisionist history has become much too frequent these days.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Oct 28, 2011 at 9:10 PM

      Yeah, Reggie never dared speak his mind in the 70’s.

      Maybe his foot shuffling and Uncle Tom attitude will get a candy bar named after him someday.

  6. 78mu - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    he grew up in the 30s and 40s and that explains a lot about a person

    A lot of those people at the head of the civil rights marches in the 1960’s were born in the 30s and 40s so it does not explain a lot about a person.

    I’ve seen video of people at OWS born in the 80s and 90s that have said some anti-Semitic statements but I don’t think you’s say that explains a lot about a person.

    People are individuals and are responsible for their beliefs and actions. If Martin was the racist Jackson says he was so be it. But don’t slime or excuse entire generations as unwilling or unable to overcome their environment.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:28 PM

      Good point. I get the thought process of Craig to an extent because things certainly were alot worse back in the 40’s through the 70’s but I also don’t think you can assume that most people from those times just lazily fell into the typical Archie Bunker type of thinking.

  7. emeraldcityfan - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Sounds like Reggie still thinks he is the straw the stirs the drink….

  8. aceshigh11 - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    “Personally, I think Billy Martin said it best when he said:

    ‘Hey…I can drive.'”

    — Denis Leary

    • vikesfansteve - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      It would have been funny except he wasn’t driving

      That’s almost as dumb as the guy talking about being black in 1977

      shut up is right


      Maybe 1947 in the deep south but not 1977 New York when you are the most famous baseball player in the world

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:58 PM

        I’m simply quoting a humorous Denis Leary line. If you have an issue with the accuracy of it, take it up with him.

      • psousa1 - Oct 28, 2011 at 3:00 PM

        Yes he was. His friend and lawyer, name escapes me right now, was in the passenger seat and when the accident happened he jumped in drivers seat because, not knowing whether Martin was dead or alive knew it would become a circus if Martin was behind the wheel and hurt his future job possibilities. He later admitted this to the police that Martin was behind the wheel.

  9. Fat Al - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Here’s another one. None other than Roger Kahn describes Martin’s racist and anti-Semitic comments:

  10. xpensivewinos - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I guess someone can ask Ken Holtzman what he thinks…….

  11. pjmitch - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    What amazes me is that any of us take anything that Jackson says seriously regarding any subject.

  12. Amadeus - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Nothing like pissing on a man’s grave. Jackson is pathetic; always was about him, not the team. When Casey Stengel got Elston Howard, he famously said, “I finally get a n—–r and he can’t run.” So what? Get over the PC. There’s no crying in baseball.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      Ah, yes…another person wielding the “political correctness” straw man.

      It seems that the people who whine about “PC” (which has been a non-issue for over 20 years) are upset that it’s no longer acceptable to be openly racist, sexist and homophobic in America.

      So sad for you.

  13. ezwriter69 - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    So today you’re justifying and excusing and minimizing racism and hate speech. Yesterday it was justifying and excusing and minimizing blaming a man for his own nearly fatal assault.
    Time to look for a new job, dude, you just aren’t the man, literally, for this one. How the bleep does NBC continue to employ the likes of you?

  14. ezwriter69 - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    When you’re a hater of Calcaterra’s extreme standing, ANYTHING is excusable, ANYTHING can be rationalized.

  15. tuftsb - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    I know Maddox and Sample and have heard the stories for over 30 years – and I know Holtzman and that the stories are true. (And I wonder what Billy thought of maddox’ conversion to Judaism?)

    “Martin’s alcohol-induced barroom brawl lifestyle as manager included some instances in which he ordered players to hit other players who used to play for him – during spring training games! The two examples of this are Elliott Maddox and Billy Sample. Anyone who says “I want you to drill that little nigger in the head” has done far more damage to the game than “the clear” and “the cream”. ”

    • tuftsb - Oct 28, 2011 at 4:39 PM

      Nothing better for the thumbs down crowd than to give them first hand contemporaneous facts that have been confirmed over the years to confuse them!

  16. yournuts - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    I am a life long Yankee fan. I guarantee that the Martin stories are true. They are well documented and reflect the way that the game was played during Martin’s time. Was he really a racist? Who knows what the real truth is? It didn’t matter as long as the players won but he always have some sort of racial remark about someone’s heritage. In the 50’s 60’s and 70’s it was that way in Baseball. It was even worst in the 30’s and 40’s. Look at what Hank Greenberg went through and Jackie Robinson. This is the way that we evolve as a people.

    So if you want to defend Martin because he can’t defend himself that is OK. As a Yankee fan I still loved him as much as I love Reggie Jackson, Greg Nettles, Ken Holtzman, and any other Yankee including the Boss.

  17. stew48 - Oct 28, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    And, not a single comment that Costas conducted this absurd interview.

  18. nolliabed - Oct 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    So what if he didn’t like black people…………..lots of black people like Reggie himself don’t like white people, but no one is calling Reggie a racist. When did it become a crime to dislike someone. Get off your high horse Reggie…….the man is dead and if in fact he didn’t like you then so be it and let it go. Reggie the racist. Reggie the a-hole. Reggie the selfish prick. So sick of the race card……….still pulling it out after all these years. Well I think Reggie is jackass…………..and if I’m a racist for thinking that then so be it.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 28, 2011 at 11:41 PM

      Reggie doesn’t like white people? Any quotes that prove that?

      You’re drawing a false equivalence.

      I don’t excuse racism of ANY kind, but can you think of a REASON why a black person born in the ’30s or ’40s MIGHT have had a legitimate chip on their shoulder towards white people back in the ’60s and ’70s?

      Hmm…anything coming to mind?

  19. pisano - Oct 28, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Reggie needs to let the man ( Billy ) rest in peace, he caused enough trouble with most of the players on those championship teams. Munson couldn’t stand him and only tolerated him for the good of the team. I tend to agree with the racist side of Reggie, meaning he used the race card when it was to his advantage, and with Reggie’s big mouth to the media the Yankees always seemed to pacify him. Move on Reggie, that was along time ago and Billy isn’t here to defend himself.

  20. namriverrat69 - Oct 28, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    I loed watching Jackson play his whole career. He was Great. He deserves to be in the HOF. However his mouth doesn’t. He has always been outspoken which was a part of him and he did chase down that purse snatcher in New York all those years ago. That was then and this is now.

    It is ridiculous of him to make commets all these years later disparaging the memory of Billy Martin. Billy Martin was a unique personality. It is way out of line for Jesse Jackson today, to come out with remarks to disparage Billy Martins memory. If it was possible Billy Martin would come back from the grave and make you eat your words. What is your reason Jesse? If it is even partly true that was 40 years ago. Need to see you name in the papers one more time? Did you really hate Billy Martin that much. Why then would you make these statements now after all these years? Jesse Jackson has no guts. These are serious allegations which should have been made to Martin’s face while he was still alive and healthy, Coming out now with Jesse is like walking by and spitting on Billy Martin’s gravestone.

    Go back to counting your antique cars Jesse and stay away from a microphone and camera., You only embarrass yourself and Major League Baseball.

    • sadpandarevolt - Oct 28, 2011 at 10:09 PM

      So when asked a question about your experences with someone that’s dead… you shouldn’t talk about it, unless you had a good relationship?

  21. stew48 - Oct 28, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    sadpandarevolt: Gee, I’ m pleased to realilze you have figured that out.

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