American Major League Baseball second baseman and manager. He is best known as the manager of the New York Yankees, a position he held five different times. As Yankees manager, he led the team to consecutive American League pennants in 1976 and 1977; the Yankees were swept in the 1976 World Series by the Cincinnati Reds but triumphed over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the 1977 World Series. He also had notable managerial tenures with several other AL squads, leading four of them to division championships.
Billy Martin, the combative baseball manager who was celebrated for his ability to motivate players but was notorious for fighting with them and others, was killed yesterday in a traffic accident near Binghamton, N.Y. He was 61 years old.
According to the sheriff's office in Broome County, Mr. Martin was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by William Reedy, 53, a longtime friend of Mr. Martin from Detroit. The accident occurred at 5:45 P.M. near Mr. Martin's home.
Mr. Reedy was charged with driving while intoxicated, said Sheriff Anthony Ruffo. The sheriff said the truck was owned by Mr. Martin. Plunged 300 Feet
The Associated Press quoted witnesses as having said the pickup truck skidded off the icy Potter Hill Road in Fenton, continued 300 feet down an embankment and stopped at the foot of Mr. Martin's driveway. The authorities said neither Mr. Martin nor Mr. Reedy was wearing a seat belt.
Mr. Martin was taken to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City, N.Y., where efforts to revive him failed, said Michael Doll, a hospital spokesman. Mr. Doll said Mr. Martin was pronounced dead at 6:56 P.M. of severe internal injuries and possible head injuries. Mr. Doll said an autopsy would be done today at the hospital.
Mr. Reedy was listed in serious condition with a broken hip and possible broken ribs at Wilson Memorial.
Sheriff Ruffo said Mr. Reedy had been charged with driving while intoxicated and would be arraigned Jan. 4 in Fenton town court. The sheriff said Mr. Reedy took a blood alcohol test after the accident, but the sheriff did not disclose the results of the test.
Word of Mr. Martin's death spread quickly to current and former Yankee associates.
''It's shocking; it makes me sick to my stomach,'' said Lou Piniella, who is the Cincinnati Reds' manager but who spent as much time in a Yankees' uniform with Mr. Martin as anyone.
''He was a friend,'' Mr. Piniella said. ''I played for him. I coached for him. I had a special relationship with him. I talked to Billy in Nashville just a couple of weeks ago. He said he was going to be more involved with the team. He was going to go to more Yankee games, help evaluate the team in spring training. He was enthused about doing these things.
''I got the feeling he was looking forward to managing one more time. He didn't mention where or under what circumstances, but I thought he would've enjoyed managing one more time.''
An unconfirmed rumor in the last two months had Mr. Martin poised to become the Yankees' manager a sixth time, replacing Bucky Dent if the team did not start the 1990 season successfully. Special Adviser
Mr. Martin had been serving as a special adviser to George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, with whom he had a love-hate relationship. The two always seemed to get along better when Mr. Martin was not managing the Yankees than when he was. Mr. Steinbrenner denied yesterday that he had had managerial plans for Mr. Martin again.
''No way,'' the owner said by telephone from Tampa, Fla. ''He was too happy doing what he was doing. He was coming upstairs. He was going to be there more than ever before.
''He was enthused about the coming season. In the past, it was a hit-and-miss thing, but he was going to be working a lot. I must have talked to him 20 times in the last month and a half.''
Mr. Steinbrenner said he saw Mr. Martin last week when the two men appeared at the Tampa Performing Arts Center in a musical program for underprivileged children.
''He was excited about it,'' Mr. Steinbrenner said. ''He talked about how when he was a kid at Christmas, he didn't do much.''
Mr. Dent, in Florida, said that Mr. Martin had ''his ups and downs, but he was a Yankee, heart and soul.'' 'He Was a Winner'
''He was a winner and nobody can fault him for that,'' Mr. Dent said.
Mr. Martin had lived near Binghamton since his last managerial tour with the Yankees ended on June 23, 1988. He managed the Yankees five times, a major league record for a single team, and also served as manager of the Minnesota Twins (1969), the Detroit Tigers (1971-73), the Texas Rangers (1973-75) and the Oakland Athletics (1980-82).
Considered one of the most brilliant game managers of his time until his last two or three stints with the Yankees, Mr. Martin won the World Series with the Yankees in 1977, the American League pennant with the Yankees in 1976 and division titles with Minnesota in 1969, Detroit in 1972 and Oakland in 1981.
The fiery Mr. Martin was especially adept at motivating players, though some said he did this through intimidation. Some of his former players said it was always easier to win, than to lose and face Mr. Martin's wrath. Players in a losing Martin clubhouse often resembled mourners at a funeral.
Virtually all of his managerial jobs ended in controversy, but none as storied as his departures from the Yankees. Mr. Martin resigned the first time, in 1978, a day after saying of Reggie Jackson, his right fielder, and Mr. Steinbrenner: ''The two of them deserve each other. One's a born liar; the other's convicted.''
Mr. Steinbrenner dismissed him the four other times, usually after Mr. Martin had been engaged in a fight. In 1979, it was with a marshmallow salesman; in 1985, one of his own players, Ed Whitson, who broke Mr. Martin's arm in a furious fight at a Baltimore hotel; in 1988, in the men's restroom at a topless bar in Texas.
Between the bar fight and his dismissal last year, Mr. Martin threw dirt on an umpire in one of his many on-field disputes. His action drew a three-day suspension and a threat from the lawyer for the umpires' union that the umpires would eject Mr. Martin from every game in which he dared step out of the dugout. Mr. Martin was gone as the Yankees' manager a few weeks later.
Alfred Manuel Martin was born in Berkeley, Calif., on May 16, 1928. His Italian grandmother called him Belli, Italian for pretty, and it evolved into Billy. He grew up fighting.
''I didn't like to fight,'' he once explained, ''but I didn't have a choice. If you walked through the park, a couple kids would come after you. When you were small, someone was always chasing you.
''I had to fight three kids once because I joined the Y.M.C.A. They thought I was getting too ritzy for them.''
Mr. Martin overcame his fighting long enough to become a baseball player with the Yankees. Then he resumed his fighting in that arena.
He had fights with Clint Courtney, a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, in 1952 and 1953. He and several teammates, including Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, were involved in a fight at the Copacabana nightclub in New York in 1957. In 1960, he broke the jaw of a Chicago pitcher, Jim Brewer, and Mr. Brewer later won $10,000 in a lawsuit. As a manager, in 1969, Mr. Martin knocked out one of his players, Dave Boswell, who was fighting another player.
Mr. Martin, 5 feet 11 inches and 165 pounds, also played a peppery game of baseball. A second baseman, he reached the major leagues in 1950.
Mr. Martin played for Casey Stengel, who was managing the Yankees then. Mr. Martin developed a father-son relationship with the childless Mr. Stengel, although they didn't speak for a time after Mr. Martin was traded to Kansas City in 1957.
Mr. Martin set a World Series record in 1953 for most hits, 12, in a six-game Series, and tied a record for the highest batting average, .500.
But the Yankees traded him after the Copacabana fight in 1957, and he played out the remainder of his career with six other teams.
He finished his 11-year career with a .257 batting average and a .333 World Series average.
Mr. Martin began his managing career with a minor league team in Denver in 1968. He was named the Twins' manager for the 1969 season. The Rangers, his third major league team, fired him on July 20, 1975, and he began his series of Yankees' jobs only 13 days later. A Dynamic Personality
Mr. Steinbrenner always explained his desire to have Mr. Martin as his manager by saying that Mr. Martin was a dynamic personality, which was needed in New York, and he put ''fannies in the seats.'' The two, however, fought fiercely as owner and manager.
When he made a change, Mr. Steinbrenner often said he was doing it for Mr. Martin's health. Conversely, it was always a sign that the owner was getting ready to hire Mr. Martin again when he began remarking on how healthy Mr. Martin looked.
Last night, Mr. Steinbrenner related a story Mr. Martin had told him about the way Mr. Martin's mother viewed the owner. Mr. Martin's mother died recently.
''When I first hired him,'' Mr. Steinbrenner related, ''his mother called me and asked for an autographed picture, and I sent it. He told me that 'every time you'd fire me, my mother put the picture in the john. When you hired me, she put it above her dresser.' ''
Mr. Martin is survived by his fourth wife, the former Jilluan Guiver, whom he married on Jan. 25, 1988, and by a son, Billy Joe Martin, and a daughter, Kelly Ann Martin, both from previous marriages, and one grandchild.