Billy Martin, who resigned as New York Yankee manager in tears 11 months ago, officially returned to that position today six months ahead of schedule.
He will be on the bench here Tuesday night when the Yankees open a series against Toronto.
Martin's return, with the Yankees infourth place and 8 1/2 games out of first in the American League East, had been reported over the weekend. It was made official today by the Yankee's owner, George Steinbrenner.
Bob Lemon, who replaced Martin lastsummer, will step upstairs as general manager. The Yankees said Martinwould be under contract through the 1981 season.
"I did not come here to lose," Martin said last night at LsGuardia Airport after flying from a golf tournament in Iowa. "I'm really quite happy and grateful ... I'm here to give my best shot.
"This was all prearranged," Martin said. "The name of this game is patience. We're right there now, and I think we can do it. We've done it before, and we'll do it again."
Asked if Reggie Jackson, a longtime antagonist, would be any problem, Martin said, "no, I think we all realize Reggie is an important part of our club."
No major coaching shakeups are expected, although the Yankees said Art Fowler, Martin's longtime friend and confidant, will return to the club aspitching coach. Fowler also has served with Martin during his managing stints at Minnesota, Detroit and Texas.
Today's announcement was the lastest twist in two turbulent years for the Yankees and Martin. Five days after Martin resigned last season, Steinbrenner announced Martin would return as field boss in 1980 and Lemon would become general manager.
Steinbrenner said then Martin's health was his prime consideration for giving him what amounted to a sabbatical. Martin continued as a Yankee scout.
In Tampa, Fla., Steinbrenner said, "This is a real turning point in his (Martin's) life. He will take it from here and run, or screw it up ... I'm counting, the Yankees are counting on Billy."
Steinbrenner said Martin had agreed to tell Jackson "the Yankees can't win Without him, that he is needed if we are to win another championship."
DescribingLemon as a victim of circumstances, Steinbrenner said he was "not quitethe man he was before the death of his son right after the last world series, and surely we understand that. How terrible the tragedy."
Steinbrenner said he began contemplating a change after the Yankees dropped a4-2 decision to Minnesota Thursday night. "I just saw a lack of hustleand a bad attitude," he said. "They weren't running out the balls, theywere moping back to the dugout-no spirit.
"Well, I decided to stick around. I got on the plane with the team for the ride to Texas. There was laughing and joking and radios were blaring. I saw no remorse among some for the loss. I was totally disappointed."
Friday morning, he had breakfast with Lemon. By that time, Steinbrenner had made up his mind to make a change.
"At that point," he said, "I wasn't sure it would be Billy, or even to bring him in for a talk."
On Saturday, Steinbrenner summoned Martin to meet him Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. He said he was still not sure then whether Martin was his man.
"I was undecided at that point (Saturday) whether to bring Billy back immediately or hire an interim manager for the rest of the year ... I considered Gene Michael (a former Yankee coach and front office executive)."
During their meeting Sunday, Steinbrenner said, "We went over things back and forth. I let him set down his rules and I told him what I thought we ought to do to get back into the race.
"We discussed the injuries. (Rick) Gossage (out with a bad thumb) is throwing now and should be back in three weeks. Reggie (leg injury) should be back this week and (Ron) Guidry (sore back) won't miss but one pitching turn. Don Gullett (sore arm) is looking great, but we may keep him out all year."
Steinbrenner said no rules were written down; Martin took no oath; Steinbrenner made no threats.
"I told him we'd extend the contract through 1981, meaning an additional year, and that I was sure he could do the job. I believe he can. It is a straight managerial contract. I told him I approved of his rehiring Art Fowler as a coach and told him to take the team and go with it. He said he would."
Martin was summoned off the 13th hole of a golf course in Iowa City, Iowa, where he was playing in a tournament, to take a call from Steinbrenner telling him he was being rehired and summoning him back to New York immediately.
Although the Yankees did not play today, Lemon returned to Yankee Stadium and cleaned out his desk. He told United Press International he found out about Martin's return over breakfast with Steinbrenner Friday before the Yankees played the Rangers.
"George told me on the plane the day before he'd like to have breakfast with me the following morning," Lemon said, "and when we were going the way we were going, you sort of have a feeling in the back of your mind that it could happen.
"Over breakfast, George said he felt a change would benefit the club, and he pointed out we were going to do it anyway in 1980."
Lemon has three years remaining on his Yankee contract. Although he will take over the title of general manager, he will be a scout out of his home in Long Beach, Calif., according to Milt Richmond, upi sports editor.
Lemon, 58, always the company man, did not change character yesterday.
"I hope this turns the club around like it did last year," he said. "I'll tell you one thing, if I can help Billy in any way, I'll be more than glad to."
Asked to comment on the reasons for his early rise into Steinbrenner's front office, Lemon replied: "He has his opinion. He's the owner and that's his prerogative."
Lemon said basically the same thing when Ewing Kauffman fired him as the Kansas City Royal's manager six years ago, citing Lemon's age, then 52.
"There isn't much I can do about my age," he said at the time. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Billy Martin rushes back to New York past hastily contrived "welcome" sign at LaGuardia Airport to relieve Bob Lemon, who has resigned look in his Yankee Stadium office. UPI/AP; Picture 3, Billy Martin