Said Billy Martin to sportswriter Ray Hagar and the world: "I'm sorry I hit Ray. We're good friends now."
Said Hagar: "I'm just glad it's over. I hold no animosity and I wish Billy the best of luck in his dealing with George Steinbrenner."
Martin returned to Reno, Nev., for yesterday's public apology. It was there Nov. 10 that Hagar's eye was blackened and teeth chipped when the questions got sticky as the Reno newspaperman interviewed Martin, on hand to promote the Reno Bighorns's initial game in the Western Basketball Association.
Now they shook hands and Hagar affirmed he was dropping a lawsuit, satisfied by Martin's remorse plus an estimated $8,000 from the Bighorns.
It was like a family quarrel, Martin offered. "Just because you yell at your parents or your kids doesn't mean you don't like each other." Now, he declared, "I can get back to New York and sit down and talk with George."
That, of course, is about his status in the big, happy New York Yankee family - about whether Steinbrenner meant it when he promised if the Nevada incident was settled properly he would restore Martin, Yankee manager mid-1975 to mid-1978, to good standing as Yankee manager-in-waiting-for-1980. . .
Regardless, 1980 is a long way off. When you're talking about Billy Martin.