I read everything I could get my hands on to write the Billy Martin part of the book, and I mentioned in the book that I was particularly interested in a book that’s not yet written (focusing on Martin’s baseball life and times more than which of his wives was the worst).
There are two widely-available books out on Martin: The Last Yankee, by David Falkner, and Wild, High, and Tight, by Peter Holenbock. They’re both essentially the same book, though I’d recommend Holenbock’s if you’re going to chose one: there’s significantly more in it. Right now, though, it’s a little expensive to come across, while the Falkner book is cheap (see below).
Both of them, do a good job of tracing Martin’s path up from the mean streets, finding baseball (through Casey Stengel) and his turbulent life, including the alcoholism, the womanizing, and all that good stuff. You can really sense how the madness that drove him to succeed also destroyed him, and there’s enough baseball content that if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be okay.
The other big one is Martin’s autobiography, which is widely available for next to nothing:
Written by Martin and Peter Golenbock (who, you’ll note, wrote High, Wild, and Tight), it’s almost entirely fact-free. It’s a staggering bundle of self-justification, lies, half-truths, fabrications, and sometimes, surprising insight into how Martin’s mind worked. Having read this, and Golenbock’s biography, it’s not hard for me to believe that when Martin went to explain his latest bar brawl or run-in with the umpires that he was convinced that he was in the right, and that whatever story he was peddling was the absolute truth.
In the book, I suggest that Steve Goldman, who wrote the outstanding Forging Genius, would do a fine job with the baseball career of Martin. In Forging Genius, he writes about how Stengel learned at each stop in his career, and relates how the circumstances changed him as a player and manager until everything came together and he encountered success.
It’s exactly the kind of book I would have loved to have read about Martin and didn’t. Martin was for a long time one of Stengel’s favorites: as Stengel moved up the minor league ladder as a manager, he frequently promoted Martin with him. Martin must have learned much from him in the years he played, but we don’t really get that from any current book. And if you’re like me, and what you’re really interested in is his relationship with his pitching coach, who he brought in to teach his staff to spitball, or Martin’s amazing in-game strategies, you just don’t get that from what’s out there now. I know that’s not the kind of book that sells 100,000 copies, but it’s a book I think the baseball world would be richer for having.
Which reminds me: here’s a link to Goldman’s book.