Billy Martin, manager of the reigning World Champion New York Yankees, tearfully resigns a day after making disparaging remarks about Owner George Steinbrenner and All-Star Reggie Jackson. The trouble started five days earlier when Martin suspended Jackson for refusing to follow orders. Upon Reggie Jackson’s return, Billy Martin remarked that Jackson was a born liar and Steinbrenner was a convicted liar. Bob Lemon would take over the rest of the season.
For more than a year, the Yankees clubhouse had been a tinderbox. A demanding owner, a volatile manager, and an outspoken star created daily tension in the Bronx. The 1977 season had been a roller coaster ride, with Billy Martin nearly coming to blows with Reggie Jackson during one infamous game at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, Owner George Steinbrenner, unhappy about the Yankees being swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series, had threatened to fire his manager daily. Through it all, the Yankees preserved and reached the fall classic for a second straight year, where this time they would beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with Reggie Jackson putting punctuation on the season with three home runs in the final game.
The following day in Kansas City at the team’s hotel, knowing he would likely be fired, Billy Martin announced his resignation, citing his health as the reason for stepping down. The Yankees would announce that Bob Lemon, the man who was rumored to be in the manager-for-manager swap earlier in the season, would become the Yankees' new manager.
Five days later, the Billy Martin saga took another strange turn at the annual Yankees Old Timer’s Day as the former manager was a surprise guest. As he was introduced, a message flashed on the scoreboard, stating that Billy Martin would return as manager in 1980 when Bob Lemon’s contract expired. In the waning days after his resignation, Martin met with George Steinbrenner and clarified their differences. This would be a sign of things to come over the next decade, as Billy Martin was hired and fired five times before his untimely death on Christmas day in 1989. At the time of his death, it was rumored that he was on the verge of, once again, getting hired to manage the Yankees.
Despite being a lame-duck manager just a week after being hired, Bob Lemon quietly accepted his situation. The complete opposite of Billy Martin, Lemon created a quiet calm in the Yankees clubhouse, which ended up being the right formula as the Yankees, who scuffled all season, made a stunning comeback, overtaking the Red Sox and winning a second straight World Series. Despite their turnaround, Lemon’s time with the Yankees was short-lived, as he was fired and replaced by Billy Martin in June of 1979.