Billy Martin was reportedly close to losing his job as manager of the New York Yankees following a temper tantrum directed at a reporter last night, the latest in a series of incidents involving Martin.

The Associated Press reported that a source close to the Yankees said that because of the incident, Martin was close to being fired again by team owner George Steinbrenner.

Martin has twice before left the Yankees, once when he was fired by Steinbrenner and another time when he resigned under pressure.

Already unhappy over Steinbrenner's decision to reassign Yankee pitching coach Art Fowler, a longtime friend of the manager, to the minors, Martin reportedly became angry at a reporter for the New York Times who was conducting a poll of players for a story before last night's game with the Milwaukee Brewers, won by the Yankees, 7-2, at Yankee Stadium.

A Times official said Deborah Henschel of the newspaper's special projects office was talking to Yankee players on a story involving the All-Star Game when Martin "stormed in and ordered her out of the clubhouse." The official said Martin used a string of "invectives."

"As I understand it," said Elliot Sanger Jr., manager of the Times' corporate relations department, "she apparently went to the Brewers' clubhouse and completed her interviewing."

Sanger added, "George Steinbrenner, at one point, apologized to her for the treatment by Martin."

Apparently the Times pressed the issue with Steinbrenner. Later, he said in a statement released by public relations director Ken Nigro:

"We have talked to the New York Times. It was to gather information. Naturally, we are very upset by what has happened. I talked to Sandy Padwe (Times deputy sports editor) and we're still trying to find out more about what happened."

The Yankees' victory was led by catcher Rick Cerone, playing in only his sixth game in the last 23, drove in three runs and had three hits.

Winner Dave Righetti (8-2) gave up 11 hits and did not yield a run until Mark Brouhard hit a one-out homer in the seventh.