A remnant from the Yankees' championship teams of the early '60s, Houk (far right in photo) lasted one season under new owner George Steinbrenner, going 80-82 (fourth place) before retiring. Including Houk, the Yankees had only 11 managers in the 55 years between 1918 and 1973. That would change in a hurry under The Boss. As Johnny Carson later noted, "There are 11 million unemployed in the United States and most of them are Yankee managers."
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Oakland manager Dick Williams was Steinbrenner's first choice, but he had to settle on Virdon, who led the Yankees to an 89-win season and a second-place showing. The Boss also had to start running things behind the scenes after pleading guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution to Richard Nixon and being suspended from baseball for two years (later reduced to 15 months).
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Virdon was replaced 104 games into the 1975 season with the fiery Billy Martin, a former Yankee second baseman who had won division titles with Minnesota and Detroit. The contract was laced with behavioral clauses and gag orders, leading Martin to say, "They hadn't even hired me and here they were talking about firing me." The Bronx Zoo era had begun.
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Martin had won two pennants and a World Series, but when the Yankees slumped in '78, he was fired in favor of the placid Bob Lemon, who would lead them to their memorable comeback over the Red Sox and a Series triumph over the Dodgers. The frustrated Martin was axed in the wake of his inflammatory public statement, "One [Reggie Jackson] is a born liar and the other [Steinbrenner] is convicted." Strangely, the Yankees announced on Old Timer's day that Martin would be back to manage the club in 1980. Predictably, he wouldn't wait that long.
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After winning the '78 Series, Lemon didn't even last until the All-Star break. Martin returns to his dream job, but the season is a nightmare, the club overcome by the adversity of captain Thurman Munson's death and closer Goose Gossage's injury in a fracas with teammate Cliff Johnson. In the offseason, Martin gets into a bar fight with a marshmallow salesman and is fired again.
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The laid-back Howser wins 103 games, the most in the Steinbrenner era to that point, but commits the unpardonable sin of losing to the Royals in the ALCS. Steinbrenner announces that Howser is leaving to pursue a fabulous real estate deal in Florida, but he returns the next season with Kansas City, where he would win three AL West titles and a world championship in the next six seasons.
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The pressure was on even more than usual with the signing of slugger Dave Winfield to a massive contract. Michael, a longtime Steinbrenner favorite, was canned despite a 46-33 record after complaining about the Boss' almost daily public threats.
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Returning for his second tour in the dugout, Lemon leads the club to the World Series against the Dodgers, but loses in six games. Thus began a postseason drought that would not end until 1995.
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Lemon lasts 14 games into the season only to give way to Michael (sitting), who goes 44-42 before getting fired for the second time.
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King, the Yankees' third manager of the season, guides the club for the last 52 games, going 29-33. The players considered him a spy for Steinbrenner.
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Martin returns and wins 91 games, but finishes third in a season riddled with fines and suspensions for criticizing umpires and AL president Lee MacPhail. Martin is also caught passing notes to his girlfriend in the stands during a game, leading Steinbrenner to publicly question his focus and dedication. Billy III ends in December, although Steinbrenner denies it's a firing. "You can look at it that way," he says, "but I'm just shifting personnel."
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The Yankees get off slowly and it proves deadly when Detroit runs away with a 35-5 start, but finish 51-29 to save Berra's job despite a third-place showing (87-75).
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After The Boss promised that he will manage the entire season "win or lose," Berra is canned after 16 games and refuses to return to Yankee Stadium for many years. The players are enraged, to which Steinbrenner responds, "If they're not happy, let them get jobs as cabdrivers, firemen or policemen in New York City. Then they'll see what it's like to work for a living." Martin continues to find trouble, getting into fights on back-to-back nights in Baltimore, including a vicious brawl with pitcher Ed Whitson. New York wins 97 games, but finishes second behind Toronto.
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Former Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella takes over, and finishes second and fourth in successive seasons, bickering with Steinbrenner all the while.
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Martin begins the season by being hired as Yankees manager for the fifth and final time. He goes 40-28 but is booted after getting beat up in a topless bar in Dallas.
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Piniella is rehired to replace Martin, but the team struggles to a fifth-place finish.
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The outspoken Green refers to Steinbrenner as "Manager George" and is fired in August with a 56-65 record.
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The hero of '78 fails to spark the club as he goes 18-22 to finish out the season. He starts 1990 at 18-31 before getting the axe.
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Steinbrenner was suspended for three years for the Howard Spira-Dave Winfield scandal, but that didn't stop the Yankees from firing the hapless Merrill, who was 120-155 in nearly two seasons.
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With the Boss suspended, Showalter was hired and allowed to sustain an earnest rebuilding phase that would culminate in a first-place showing in the strike-shortened 1994 season and a playoff appearance in `95.
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The Yankees took a chance on Joe Torre, who'd had some success managing Atlanta, but more recently failed in St. Louis. Torre would lead New York to four World Series titles in five years and 12 consecutive playoff appearances.
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After beating out former Yankees great Don Mattingly for the job, Girardi suffered through a tumultuous first season in which the Yankees went 89-73 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Year Two went much better for Girardi, who led the Bronx Bombers to their 27th World Series championship.
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