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Tommy John: Billy Martin was a bigot

May 6, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

Tommy John was on the Dan Patrick Show today and had some interesting things about the two most famous managers he played for: Billy Martin and Tommy Lasorda.

Martin, John says, a great manager but he “was not a nice person,” he was a bigot and that he gave his players anxiety about coming to the park each day. Lasorda: maybe not the best Xs and Os manager ever — he credits Gene Mauch with being a great tactician — but says Lasorda was a master motivator who inspired his players:

Obviously both Martin and Lasorda had great success as big league managers. But it’s not too hard to pick which one you’d rather have in charge of your club.

Bonus: John talking about his namesake surgery:

  1. bronco58lb - May 6, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I hope Billy Martin makes it to the Hall of Fame because he always found a way to turn it around whenever he arrived on scene. Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, the Bronx and Oakland were all better off for hiring him.

  2. brandotho - May 6, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Billy Martin was definitely many things and it’s not surprising somebody talks about him like that.

  3. ingramma2014 - May 6, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Reblogged this on Not Your Average Sports Talk.

  4. Detroit Michael - May 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Billy Martin was born in 1928 and raised in a blue-collar, immigrant family. Martin had a combative personality, in both the figurative and literal senses. I don’t mean to excuse his behavior or attitudes, but being a bigot (by today’s standards) is probably to be expected.

    The real problem may have been that he was retained as a manager well into the free agency era when extreme tough guy attitudes from managers like Martin or Dick Williams no longer suited the next generation of ballplayers.

    • historiophiliac - May 6, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      I really hate when people say this. My grandfather was from that same era and came from a poor immigrant family. He was a son of a motherless goat about a lot of things and in no way someone you’d want to emulate as a person, but bigoted toward black players wasn’t one of them. I kind of feel if he managed to respect black people, there really isn’t much excuse for others. It isn’t as if there weren’t white people opposed to racism back then. You didn’t have to buy in….something I like to remember/remind people about in regard to transsexuals and others who get ostracized today.

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 6, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        I see your grandfather and raise you my father. A son of a motherless goat with horns. And HE wasn’t a bigot either. Had no time for it. He always said “show me the evidence. Not your prejudice. The evidence.” He detested narratives. Made a fortune doing that and I never heard him say that easily identifiable minorities were inferior in any way. In fact, he always said he’d hire an immigrant over a local because he’d pay them the same and the immigrant often worked harder, smarter, and to better effect. If anything he was prejudiced against his fellow white man. He loved to point out that the people who really hurt him personally were all white, just like he was.

        Martin has no excuse for being like he was. He was a narrow minded bigot who took pleasure in it. He happened to be good at managing ballgames. This doesn’t excuse or mitigate who he was as a person.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        I’d say people who shared the general opinions of the time deserve some slack and understanding, but those who bucked the trend deserve enormous respect for blazing the narrow trail we’ve followed to this point.

        I’d say the same is true of the previously acceptable attitudes regarding LGBT individuals. But if you haven’t adapted in the last 15 years, you don’t get anymore slack.

      • historiophiliac - May 6, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        Oooh, do you think it was transsexuals that was too much for some folks?

      • tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        It’s too bad you hate HuffPo because they had a good article up not too long ago written by a trans woman and the misconceptions that people have and how it individually affects them….the most important being “We’re not trying to trick anyone.”

        I can understand that being the prevailing feeling amongst men who don’t want to be “tricked” even though that feeling is misplaced and based in fear.

      • historiophiliac - May 6, 2014 at 5:17 PM

        You can get that info other places. Quit trying to make me read HuffPo!

      • tfbuckfutter - May 6, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        It was on Cracked anyway.

      • thetruthstings - May 7, 2014 at 2:06 AM

        “historiophiliac” You Are a MORON! There is a big difference in in what color skin you are born with which we cannot help and our behavior (Becoming a Transsexual) which we CAN HELP! “QUIT SHOVING YOUR SINFUL WRONG AGENDA DOWN OUR THROATS! We do not have to like everybody’s behavior. “Love the sinner hate the sin” Being that way is a PERVERTED CHOICE!!! I am sick of people like you and our idiot sportswriters trying to push this CRAP on us! “ENOUGH ALREADY”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

      • Reflex - May 8, 2014 at 4:02 AM

        Sucks when the world leaves you behind, eh?

        Also, Historio rocks. Deal with it.

  5. ochospantalones - May 6, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Tommy Lasorda may have been a great guy to play baseball for, but apparently he was less of a great guy if you were his homosexual son.

    • hcf95688 - May 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I’ve read accounts that he was a loving dad, but in denial about his son’s sexuality.

      • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Still in denial to this day.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - May 6, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        A loving dad?
        If your love for your child is conditional, then it really isn’t all that loving, is it?

      • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        I highly recommend this story.

      • clydeserra - May 6, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        @Nothanks sure. the elder and younger tommy had by all accounts a great relationship. The elder still does not think his son was gay. There is no indication the younger was bothered by this, and the younger certainly never came out publicly.

        It is sad to think that a father would deny that in his child, but l don’t think his son being straight was a “condition” of the elders love.

      • ochospantalones - May 6, 2014 at 6:03 PM

        To jump back in on this- I think it is pretty clearly Tom Sr. meant well for his son, Tom Jr. He was not vicious or hateful towards him. But I think if you go read the story yahmule linked it is pretty clear that Tom Sr.’s refusal to accept his son’s sexuality caused his son plenty of heartache and pain:

        “I think he wanted to make his father happy,” says his Oscar Wilde. “But he didn’t know how to. He wanted to be more macho but didn’t know how to. He wanted to please his dad. He wished he could have liked girls. He tried.”

        . . .

        No one interviewed for this story thought that Tommy wasn’t gay; reactions to his father’s denial range from outrage and incredulity to laughter and a shake of the head. Former major league umpire Dave Pallone, who revealed his own homosexuality in an autobiography two years ago, knows the father well, and also knew his son.

        “Tommy senior is, as far as I’m concerned, a tremendous man,” says Pallone. “I consider him a friend. I have a lot of empathy for what he’s going through. [But] as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think he ever accepted the fact that his son was a gay man. I knew him to be a gay man, and I knew a lot of people who knew him as a gay man.

        “We don’t want to be sexual beings. We just want to be human beings.”

    • halfthemoney - May 6, 2014 at 11:09 PM

      With all due respect to those commenting about Lasorda and his relationship with his son, he didn’t disown him, he just wasn’t sure how to deal with something he was unfamiliar with. Again, with all due respect, those that are parents or spouses of a family member different for some reason and don’t understand, should stand down. For instance, would anybody slam dunk me for finally filing for divorce from my crack smoking wife after 6 yrs? I mean, c’mon, it’s a disease and not like she has a choice.

      • yahmule - May 7, 2014 at 2:59 AM

        Not really the same thing as deliberately forcing yourself not to acknowledge your child’s identity. Even when that was what he wanted most. Even when he was dying.

  6. shawndc04 - May 6, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    I find the bigotry allegation strange and surprising. Martin may well have been a jerk and tough on his players, but those characteristics do not equate to bigotry. Rod Carew played for Martin in Minnesota and had good things to say about him. I’ve never heard any of the black or Latino players under him make that allegation.

    • 18thstreet - May 6, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      • shawndc04 - May 6, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        Never heard or saw that. Thanks for the link.

    • thetruthstings - May 7, 2014 at 2:12 AM

      I Agree. Tommy John Put in a “CHEAP SHOT” to a dead man who cannot defend himself! REAL BRAVE TOMMY! “It is irresponsible Journalism to publish this crap”! SHAME ON YOU TOMMY JOHN, ESPN and ALL of the BIASED NEGATIVE SPORTSWRITWERS OUT THERE!!!

  7. aceshigh11 - May 6, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Personally, I think Billy Martin said it best when he said, “Hey, I can drive.”

    • sabatimus - May 6, 2014 at 2:15 PM

      Now THERE’S an ancient Denis Leary reference.

      • aceshigh11 - May 6, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        I can probably recite that entire album from start to finish. My friends and I wore that out in high school.

      • sabatimus - May 6, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Problem is that I got turned off to him a bit once I realized he was ripping off Bill Hicks a lot. However, Leary’s delivery is much better than Hicks’.

  8. goingoppo - May 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Why on Earth is this news?

    • baberuthslegs - May 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      So we don’t forget that bigotry exists, in our lives and in sports. We need to be reminded from time to time.

    • Joe - May 6, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Perhaps you have misconceptions about what a blog is.

    • acepicker4 - May 6, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      Hey its a “why is this news?” guy!
      This is not a news site. It is a blog site that encourages debate about diverse issues (mostly but not exclusively baseball related). It is also preferred if you can refrain from blaming your beef on liberals or conservatives ruining the world. Also nice if you could avoid calling anyone with a differing opinion an idiot, retard lieberal, neocon.

      • goingoppo - Oct 13, 2014 at 9:19 AM

        Hah…haven’t been active with this account in forever, but seeing the comments I got are actually quite entertaining here. You all take yourselves pretty seriously. I’m simply saying that anybody who knows anything about the history of baseball knows that Billy Martin was a bigot on his nicer days. He was a complete scumbag. My whole point is that I don’t see the point of having a discussion about it, because a guy who hasn’t pitched in decades brought it up. And acepicker4…what in the hell are you talking about? How did you come up with that diatribe based on my 6 word comment? You are…an idiot…good day Sir

    • doctorofsmuganomics - May 6, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      Because God hates you

  9. barrywhererufrom - May 6, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Of course Billy is not here to defend himself. So John wins the argument.

    • historiophiliac - May 6, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      “Argument” — adorable.

    • 18thstreet - May 6, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      I like how Barry shows up whenever we’re discussing racism, but this die-hard Yankee fan — who is not at all a racist himself — never comments about Derek Jeter’s slugging percentage, a street being named about Mariano Rivera, Sabathia’s velocity struggles.

      It’s not that he’s racist; he’s just a fan of racism.

      • barrywhererufrom - May 6, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        Again you have no idea who I am who am married to and where I work. You have the balls to judge someone when you know nothing about them. It is for people like you that I would never change my name on here. You are the prejudiced racist one here. I made a simple statement that TJ made a disparaging comment about Martin without him here to defend himself. So this makes me a racist. You my friend are a jackass!!

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 6, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        A jackass, “barrywhereufrom”? no. I think he’s merely observant. 18thstreet’s right. You are never around for anything BUT taking the other side of a racist debate and I never see a comment of yours, barry, that’s anything but supportive of the racist. Billy Martin is being accused of bigotry by someone who knew him well. Sure he isn’t here to defend himself. So why don’t you do it? Find the evidence to say it isn’t so. You won’t. it doesn’t exist. Know why? He was what Tommy John says he was and this has been reported widely by many, many people who knew Billy Martin.

        if you can’t find the evidence to refute that, then shut up.

      • 18thstreet - May 6, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        Aw, you guys!

      • Reflex - May 6, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        barry – Why should we care who you are married to or where you work? What does that have to do with the price of rice in China? As pointed out, you show up any time there is a discussion about racism, and you take the side of the accused racist every single time. Where your work or who you are married to, or who your friends are or what causes you’ve given money to have nothing to do with the fact that you repeatedly and predictably side with accused racists.

        But hey, nice attempt to attempt to distract from your obvious pattern!

  10. Professor Fate - May 6, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    When your behavior is pretty much a public record you don’t have much defense, alive or dead.

    “Billy Martin was an epic jackwagon? Who knew? Well, apart from everyone.”

    Guess you missed that part.

    • thetruthstings - May 7, 2014 at 2:24 AM

      thetoolsofignorance is ignorant! In our country we are “Innocent until Proven Guilty” It does not matter if 100 people who did not like him say something! Where is YOUR PROOF??? Was Billy an Upstanding Citizen? Of course not. ARE YOU? Of Course Not!!! He who is without sin cast the first stone. GET IT?

      • cshearing - May 7, 2014 at 8:21 AM

        You should use more caps, maybe then I would believe you.

    • thetruthstings - May 7, 2014 at 2:27 AM

      Billy was a mean drunk. That does not mean he was a racist…..Where is your proof?

      • Reflex - May 8, 2014 at 4:05 AM

        People who played for him said it. Both when he was alive and dead. I’m not certain what other proof you are looking for. A signed confession maybe?

  11. disgracedfury - May 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Didn’t Billy Martin get in a fight at a club at drunks saying racists remarks at Sammy Davis Jr.Unlike Tommy John Billy will get to the hall of fame and so glad Tommy John has to sign MRI’s to have a career.

    • simonfoster231171 - Jun 25, 2014 at 9:44 PM

      The Copacabana incident? Martin and the other Yankees were trying to watch Davis when a group of drunken bowlers started to direct racist insults towards the stage. Martin’s presence was enough for him to be traded to the Kansas City As shortly thereafter

  12. sabatimus - May 6, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    I’ve had suspicions about this for years. Martin and Reggie Jackson HATED each other…or Martin just hated Reggie. I remember them almost getting into fistfights in the dugout and Martin pulling Reggie out in the middle of an inning (though the story was that Reggie didn’t try on a fly ball to him off the bat of Jim Rice, who couldn’t run for crap).

    • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Reggie hated Billy and Thurman and they hated him. Only Thurman sort of got dragged into the whole thing and then was lucky enough to die. The pumpkin headed egomaniac and the aging bantam rooster were more than happy to act like fools for the New York media every damn day they were together. Except for September of ’78 when the whole city joined hands to watch Boston choke again.

  13. yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Tommy Lasorda ran Glenn Burke out of Los Angeles because he didn’t want a gay player around his gay son. Great idea because where else was Tommy Jr going to find another homosexual to hang around with in Los Angeles?

    Swell guy that Tommy was, he and Al Campanis banished Burke to Oakland where he could play for Billy Martin, who Tommy had known for 35 years. Glenn Burke’s first day in Oakland, he is introduced to his teammates by Martin like this: “Alright, fellas. This is Glenn Burke. He’s a f****t.”

  14. mikhelb - May 6, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    Bigot or not, Billy was still an excellent manager who would do just about anything to fire up his time and make them win. He did it with the A’s and with the NYY. Tommy LaSorda and Perranosky were mostly famous for burning pitchers arms.

    Maybe it was due to the times and nowadays Martin would not behave that way, times changes, and what is overall viewed as acceptable changes, even if it was wrong back then and still is, crap is still crap, bigots will always be bigots but nowadays more likely than not they will save their opinions to themselves were they belong (even though bigotry still happens in the locker room), if anything modern society lauds and applauds hypocrits more than before. Double standard is the new standard.

    • nolanwiffle - May 6, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      I believe Martin has been “credited” with shortening the pitching careers of Mike Norris, Steve McCatty, Rick Langford, and Matt Keough. All were promising young pitchers for Oakland in ’80-’81 when Martin pushed them (perhaps too) hard.

      • 18thstreet - May 6, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        Yeah, it’s really something to look at what he did with the young pitching staff in Oakland.

        Now there’s something we’ll never see again. (Which is a good thing.)

      • 18thstreet - May 6, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Whoops, I meant to link to 1980, not 1981.

      • billybawl - May 6, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        In 1980, Martin’s first year in Oakland, his pitchers had 94 complete games. Each of his four best starters — McCatty, Langford, Keough, Norris — threw a 14-inning complete game that season. Can you imagine what would happen to a manager who tried that today? He probably only got away with it then because Charlie Finley — the owner and de facto GM — was in the process of selling the team that season.

      • missingdiz - May 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM

        Mike Norris shortened his own career with way too much partying in the off-season. You could maybe say that Martin was a bad example in that regard, but he was not a coke-head, as far as I know. As for the others, there are way too many other possibilities for anybody to say with any certainty that they would have had better careers without Martin. Langford, for example, just seemed to peak, and then decline. He just never was a great pitcher, but he was good for a while.

        Martin had lots of enemies. He didn’t mind that–he could be a complete jerk and just not care about other people’s feelings. He sucker-punched people for asking stupid, rude questions. I kinda miss that (just kidding).

        But he was the best field manager ever. We can debate just how much the manager matters in determining the outcome of games. But Billy Martin mattered more than anybody else when the game was on. He was a crazy warrior, but a warrior without peer.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 6, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      if anything modern society lauds and applauds hypocrits more than before

      Where do you come up with this stuff?

  15. drs76109 - May 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Ok, why all the Tommy John references these days? Like who cares about Tommy John? Don’t have a lot of respect for a guy who apparently is selling the medical images associated with his surgery…and aside from the surgery, he was only an above-average pitcher.

  16. kinggator - May 6, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Billy hated it when the “Less Filling” guys had to mix with the “Tastes Great” guys… #MillerLite

  17. yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Most of you have seen the video below of Bert Campaneris flinging his bat @ Lerrin LaGrow’s head in the 1972 ALCS. I was eight year old at the time and I thought it was one of the most shocking things I had ever seen.

    I came to find out many years later that Lerrin is my wife’s cousin. I also came to find out that as a 23 year old rookie that year he was berated by Martin as a “gutless (fill in the blank)” because he was reluctant to throw at a batter’s head on Martin’s instruction.

    Billy was a bastard in every way measurable and most of the time he reveled in that reputation.

    • billybawl - May 6, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      Don’t forget Martin flipping the bird to the nation’s youth in his 1972 Topps baseball card.

  18. rcali - May 6, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Ban Him For Life!

    Isn’t that how we solve our problems these days?

  19. musketmaniac - May 6, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    The Hall of Shame has more bigots than it needs, but one more over rated piece of shyt is always welcome at the hall. I was there in 1968 as a kid and there were people from KKK handing out membership pamphlets in the parking. Beautiful organization Racism and Baseball the true great American past time.

  20. monsor - May 6, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Wow, you really twisted the words of that interview, dude. Not cool.

  21. hep3 - May 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    “Lasorda: maybe not the best Xs and Os manager ever — he credits Gene Mauch with being a great tactician — but says Lasorda was a master motivator who inspired his players.”

    Having lived in southern California all my life, I can’t believe anyone over the age of 12 would buy into Lasorda’s “motivational” nonsense. When I read the great Jim Murray’s last book a few years ago there was a passage about how Lasorda and Eddie Murray couldn’t get along when he was with the Dodgers. Murray went way up in my estimation. My favorite story is when Jim Lefebvre, as a Dodger coach, took a swing at Lasorda and got fired. I am sure Lasorda deserved it.

    • clemente2 - May 6, 2014 at 6:12 PM

      Yes, the canonization of Lasorda is strange—lots of people who dealth with him personally came away going ‘yeccchhh’. I think he has entertainment value for casual observers.

      I think Delino Deshields, Pedro Martinez, Eddie Murray, and others would tell you different.

  22. twinfan24 - May 6, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Namesake for the surgery that seems far too common now, and a player that I once saw make 3 errors, not just in one game, but on one play. Bobbled the ground ball, threw past 1st to allow an advance by a runner, and then ended up fielding the relay to home and throwing it away on the runner trying to score. One of the craziest plays I have ever seen, especially on a dribbler back to the pitcher. The Yankees still won 16-3 that day (7/27/88), so it didn’t change the outcome, but a weird play.

  23. yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    Almost forgot this classic Billy Martin quote about Tommy Lasorda: “If he bleeds Dodger Blue, then my stool has pinstripes.”

  24. chargrz - May 6, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    So let me guess Tommy John needs money so he is writing a book and throwing anyone under the bus to try and sell it? How original.

  25. yahmule - May 7, 2014 at 3:06 AM

    Oh, Tommy, I can’t quit you!

    Soooooo NSFW.

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