ST. LOUIS, OCT. 19 -- George Steinbrenner today named Billy Martin to manage the New York Yankees for the fifth time. It is the 14th managerial change in Steinbrenner's 14 seasons as the Yankees' owner.
In an organizational housecleaning, Steinbrenner accepted the resignation of General Manager Woody Woodward, promoted Lou Piniella from manager to general manager and rehired Martin.
The Yankees previously announced that former Chicago Cubs manager Gene Michael had been hired as an East Coast scout and adviser to Steinbrenner.
Martin's return has been anticipated since early August when Steinbrenner began criticizing Piniella publicly, and when the announcement finally came, the only surprise was that Piniella stayed.
Piniella has a year remaining on his contract, and sources near the Yankees say that although Steinbrenner was ready to fire Piniella as manager, he didn't want to release Piniella from his contract. That would have made Piniella free to negotiate with other teams, and at least a half-dozen teams were believed to be interested.
The other surprise was timing. Steinbrenner had last fired a manager -- it was Martin -- on the day of Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. That move knocked the World Series off the back covers of the New York tabloids, and sources say Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth urged Steinbrenner to wait until after the Series to make this move.
Martin, 59, was under contract to the Yankees this season as an adviser and broadcaster. The Yankees are coming off a fourth-place finish and haven't won the American League East since 1981.
"I'm anxious to return as Yankee manager and I'm looking forward to bringing an exciting and winning team to Yankee fans," Martin said in a statement released by the team. "I want to bring back the winning tradition that our fans expect from the Yankees, and I'm looking forward to working with Lou to accomplish that. With Lou's help, we'll have a club Yankee fans can be proud of, and we're going to kick some butts this year."
Martin's most recent season as Yankees manager, 1985, included two late-season barroom fights in Baltimore, one with a fan and one with New York pitcher Ed Whitson.
The Yankees went 177-145 in two seasons under Piniella.
Martin has managed five AL teams, four of which won division championships under him -- Minnesota (1969), Detroit (1972), Oakland (1981), and New York (1976, 1977). Martin was named AL manager of the year for taking the Texas Rangers to their best AL West finish ever (second place) in 1974. He won that award 1976 with New York, then in 1980 and 1981 with Oakland.