Last year, at the 20th anniversary of Billy Martin’s death, I wrote an article that focused on Mike Pagliarulo’s memories of his one-time manager. Pags said:
“Billy was very honest. I remember one day, a game against the Angels. It was 1985, my first full season. In the eighth inning I fielded a bunt, threw the ball to second, and the throw pulled the man off base. When I got back to the dugout, Billy was waiting on the top step, screaming at me, ‘What the hell were you thinking out there? That wasn’t the right play.’ I didn’t back down; I told him, ‘It was the right play; I just didn’t make the throw.’
“A little while later Clete Boyer, our third base coach, says Billy wants to see me in his office. I’m thinking I’m going to get sent down, but Billy said, ‘Hey look, maybe you were right about that play.’ He didn’t say ‘You’re right,’ but he said maybe I was right. He was willing to admit he was wrong. Of course he added, ‘You dago son of a bitch, I’m only saying this because you’re Italian.’”
In 1991, Bruce Jenkins of the S.F. Chronicle said:
Let it be known, right now, that the spirit of Billy Martin still lives in the A’s clubhouse. Tony La Russa might be the most volatile, hot-tempered manager ever to wear a uniform, and that includes Billy himself.
Understand that this is not an indictment of La Russa. Martin did most of his damage off the field, with a few drinks in him, and if you ever saw the mean-spirited Billy in a bar, you knew nobody was safe.
The A’s had a rough, brawling game with the White Sox, in which La Russa felt Bobby Thigpen had thrown at Terry Steinbach’s head. Jenkins said of the postgame scene:
But then, after the A’s scored two runs and Dennis Eckersley closed out the bottom of the ninth, came La Russa’s vicious confrontation with Bob Glass, a 64-year-old reporter for Chicago’s bureau of the Associated Press. This was a question of two men being completely out of line, and Glass was lucky to get out of the A’s clubhouse without being attacked by somebody. Nobody really wanted to approach La Russa afterward. Nobody who knew him, that’s for sure. As a reporter, you were walking into La Russa’s house at a time when he had nearly lost a member of his family. As the door opened to his office, he was shaving; he had his back turned.
“How is he?” somebody asked, quietly.
“I don’t know,” La Russa said. He was steaming, right at the boiling point. It wasn’t going to take much to set him off.
Then Glass spoke up. “That had to be a very scary moment,” he said.
“I don’t want to talk about that bulls–t!” La Russa screamed.
“OK, but don’t yell at me,” Glass said.
“I’ll yell if I f—ing want to!” La Russa yelled back.
There’s no need to recount the whole exchange. La Russa was ready to go off on somebody, and Glass happened to be the one. He made a perfectly innocent remark, but in that situation, no question would have been good enough.
But then Glass made a big mistake, pressing the issue. La Russa was storming out of the office, trying to avoid the confrontation and cool off somewhere else, when Glass shouted, “Be a man!”
Oh, my goodness, was that the wrong thing to say to La Russa. As the shouting match escalated, Glass also said, “Try to act like a human being.” Now La Russa had to be restrained from punching Glass, who really had it coming. Finally an angry mob of A’s, led by Stewart and Rickey Henderson, physically removed Glass from the clubhouse.
“See, I know Tony from way back, when he managed here,” Glass said afterward. “He’s a psycho. There was one game with the Twins in the mid-’80s when Tim Laudner beat him with a three-run homer off Rich Dotson. Later, he asked me what the Twins were saying in their clubhouse. I told him they were talking about (the Sox’s) Greg Luzinski, and the cheap hits he got. Tony started screaming and yelling, throwing things around the room. Right then and there, I knew what kind of personality he was. The man is a psycho.”