Editor’s note: We were supposed to be sitting in the stands later today watching baseball. The Twins were to play six games over seven days at home. We won’t have that, but we still need baseball. We’ve asked Patrick Reusse to bring us baseball each morning. Six games over seven days. This is Patrick’s (Target) Field of Dreams.
Patty Creem, 30 years after annoying enough people with phone calls to land a job with the Twins’ new spring training operation in Fort Myers, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. She’s retiring from long weeks in the Florida ticket office.
The game: Alfred Manuel Martin Jr. brought the Oakland Athletics here as the manager for the first time and, this being Minnesota, it’s no surprise that the 51-year-old called Billy quickly found himself in the middle of something.
This is where Martin played the final 108 games of his career as a Twins second baseman. This is where he became a big-league manager for the first time, and led the Twins to an AL West title.
This is also where he was fired as a manager for the first time, shortly after that season — perhaps because he punched out one of his pitchers, Dave Boswell, on a drunken night for all parties in a Detroit bar that summer.
More likely, it was tied to strong lobbying from traveling secretary Howard Fox, an enemy for life after Billy (then a coach) punched Howard in a hotel lobby for not calling Martin’s name promptly to receive a room key.
This is where Billy had friends — particularly restaurateur Howard Wong — to visit in the offseason, which is how he came to be friendly with Gophers basketball coach Bill Musselman, which is how he came to be at the first-ever home game for Musselman’s Reno Bighorns of the Western Basketball Association, which resulted in Billy punching out 25-year-old sportswriter Ray Hagar after an interview turned testy.
And this is where, one October night after a successful pheasant-hunting trip to South Dakota, Wong and Martin were in the bar at the Hotel de France in Bloomington, and Billy was accused of throwing a punch that left a businessman with a 15-stitch cut on his lip.
That fight might have been less of an issue if the victim of the TKO, Joseph Cooper of Lincolnshire, Ill., had not been revealed to be a marshmallow salesman.
Generally, newspaper editors are looking for short headlines: “Martin punches civilian.” This time, across North America, the needed room was found on printed pages for the headline: “Martin punches marshmallow salesman.”
Which is how a gentleman — “young, overweight and wearing a French hat,” according to Martin — came to be casually tossing marshmallows in Martin’s direction early in Monday’s matinee.
The Twins were in the process of routing Martin’s starter in the bottom of the first. Billy was out quickly to counsel Keough, and on his return to the visitors dugout he faced the first fusillade of marshmallows (apparently, allowed to grow stale for better aerodynamics).
Billy stopped and attempted to discern the perpetrator. He decided on the guy in the French hat, and urged security and police to evict the bum.
“I don’t mind the marshmallows; they can tease me,” Billy lied. “But he could have put someone’s eye out.”
In the meantime, Billy’s first three pitchers — Keough, Mark Souza and Ricky Lysander — were in danger of dented foreheads, giving up 13 hits and 10 runs in six innings, including home runs by Jose Morales and Rick Sofield.
Reliever Bob Lacey finally gave the A’s two scoreless innings, and then added the quote of the day:
“They were throwing marshmallows at [Martin] in spring training, too. Pretty soon, they’ll probably come to the park in great big marshmallow suits to aggravate him.”
Heck, a great big marshmallow man roaming about and doing mischief? That could be the climax for a comedy classic some day.
Footnote: This game took place on April 25, 1980, at Met Stadium, before an announced crowd of 2,664. There were three more marshmallow throwers behind the dugout the next day.
After this game, Martin spewed a postgame torrent of homophobic slurs, triggered by the “French hat.” There was no American League discipline for this, not in 1980.
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