Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's

Dale Tafoya (Author)


In the early 1970s, the Oakland Athletics became only the second team in major-league baseball history to win three consecutive World Series championships. But as the decade came to a close, the A's were in free fall, having lost 108 games in 1979 while drawing just 307,000 fans. Free agency had decimated the A's, and the team's colorful owner, Charlie Finley, was looking for a buyer. First, though, he had to bring fans back to the Oakland Coliseum. Enter Billy Martin, the hometown boy from West Berkeley. In Billy Ball, sportswriter Dale Tafoya describes what, at the time, seemed like a match made in baseball heaven. The A's needed a fiery leader to re-ignite interest in the team. Martin needed a job after his second stint as manager of the New York Yankees came to an abrupt end. Based largely on interviews with former players, team executives, and journalists, Billy Ball captures Martin's homecoming to the Bay area in 1980, his immediate embrace by Oakland fans, and the A's return to playoff baseball. Tafoya describes the reputation that had preceded Martin--one that he fully lived up to--as the brawling, hard-drinking baseball savant with a knack for turning bad teams around. In Oakland, his aggressive style of play came to be known as Billy Ball. A's fans and the media loved it. But, in life and in baseball, all good things must come to an end. Tafoya chronicles Martin's clash with the new A's management and the siren song of the Yankees that lured the manager back to New York in 1983. Still, as the book makes clear, the magical turnaround of the A's has never been forgotten in Oakland. Neither have Billy Martin and Billy Ball. During a time of economic uncertainty and waning baseball interest in Oakland, Billy Ball filled the stands, rejuvenated fans, and saved professional baseball in the city.

Product Details

$24.95  $22.95
Lyons Press
Publish Date
March 24, 2020
6.0 X 1.2 X 8.7 inches | 1.2 pounds
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About the Author

Dale Tafoya is author of Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed (Potomac Books, 2008) and has followed Oakland A's baseball for thirty years. His work has appeared in the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Orlando Sentinel, Modesto Bee, The Source, and Beckett Baseball Card Monthly. In addition to his writing credits, Tafoya has been a guest on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Cumulus Media and Comcast Sports. Tafoya resides in the San Francisco-Bay Area.


"Back home and at the height of his managerial powers, Billy Martin turned the rag-tag A's into a winner and a pop culture phenomenon. Billy Ball explains in great detail how he pulled it off. The story seems especially amazing given the lack of daring and the decline of influence among managers today."-- TOM VERDUCCI, New York Times bestselling author, Fox and MLB network analyst "Dale Tafoya has written a first-class piece of journalism on Billy Martin's effect on Oakland when he took over as manager of the A's in 1980. Billy, who was from the Bay Area, took a dreadful team and built it into a winner. These were the glory days of Billy Ball." -- PETER GOLENBOCK, author of Wild, High, and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin "A wild, wacky, blissful read about a magical baseball run. Billy Martin is best remembered as a Yankee, but his time revitalizing the A's speaks to a larger-than-life figure's impact on a franchise in need of a jolt. This is tremendous stuff." --JEFF PEARLMAN, The New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including The Bad Guys Won! "In Billy Ball, Dale Tafoya takes us back to a time before the analytics revolution, when the manager was not a figurehead but a must-see celebrity who could re-shape a team's whole outlook. Tafoya brings Billy Martin to life through exhaustive research and captivating insights from players, coaches, reporters and others who lived through an exciting era in Oakland baseball that finally gets the book it deserves." --TYLER KEPNER, The New York Times