Long-time residents of rural Henning and Ottertail city still recall the
days in the summer of 1970 when former New York Yankee and former
Minnesota Twins manager Billy Martin stayed with his wife and son at Leaders Resort at Leaf Lakes.
“I loved baseball. Billy loved baseball. And for that reason we came to
know each other very well,” says retired Henning teacher and former athletic director Ed Snyder.
Martin had managed the Twins in 1969, with his team winning the American League Western Division title.
However, Martin had disagreements with Twins owner Calvin Griffith
after Minnesota lost the American League championship series
to the Baltimore Orioles. Martin was not hired back for the following
With Martin out of baseball for the 1970 season, the Leaders Resort
owner invited Martin, his wife Gretchen and son, Billy, Jr., to spend
several weeks at the resort at Leaf Lakes north of Henning.
Snyder, who first worked for the Henning school system in 1965-66,
worked part-time the summer of 1970 at Jim & Fern’s, an on-sale and
off-sale liquor establishment in Ottertail.
That’s where he first met Billy Martin.
“I went to the liquor store one evening, as a regular customer, and
recognized Billy. I went up to him and asked if I could ask him a few
questions about baseball,” Snyder recalled.
“He said, ‘Yes, I’d be happy to talk baseball, a game I love.’ Our first
conversation lasted two hours.”
Later, the two of them connected at Jim & Fern’s, when Ed was working
there or when Ed came in as a customer. “We had conversations at
least a dozen times that summer,” Ed said.
Later, Jim & Fern’s bar became Art & Dee’s Wheel Bar in Ottertail.
“Billy was appreciative of me asking questions about baseball that he
was comfortable with in answering,” Ed said. “Billy said he was happy that I didn’t bring up negative circumstances, such as his disagreements with Twins owner Calvin Griffith.”
Martin, while at the resort with his wife and son, enjoyed activities such as fishing and swimming and just plain relaxing.
One night Martin was at the bar when Snyder was working at Jim &
Fern’s in Ottertail. About five guys were at a nearby table making some
disparaging remarks about Billy, which Martin could easily hear.
“I could tell that Billy was getting more and more irritated,” Snyder recalled. “He finally got up and I held my breath, knowing that Billy at
times loved a fight.”
Instead, Martin plopped a $50 bill in front of Snyder.
“He said to buy each of the five guys a drink and then for me to keep
the change,” Ed said. “That was his way of keeping the peace, avoiding a
fight, and showing his friendship to me. It was something I deeply appreciated.”
Later in the summer Billy Martin connected one last time with Snyder
at Jim & Fern’s in Ottertail.
“He came in and with an excited voice said, ‘Great news. I’ll be back
in baseball in 1971.’ I can’t give you the details but you’ll know about this within a couple of days.”
Sure enough, two days later, the sports world found out that Billy
Martin would manage the Detroit Tigers for the 1971 baseball season.
“I was happy for Billy,” Snyde said.
Snyder, in the fall of 1970, went back to work in the Henning public
school system. He was a social studies teacher, served as athletic director and worked for the school system for 34 years.
Snyder retired in 1999 and resides in the Twin Cities. He returns to
lakes country near Henning in the summer months.
After his tenure at Detroit, Martin managed the Texas Rangers. Then it
was on to the New York Yankees. He led his team to the World Series
title in 1977.
Sadly, Martin could not get along with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He eventually left an on-again and off-again managerial
relationship. His final job as manager was with the Oakland Athletics.
Martin, for much of his life, battled alcoholism. He died at age 61 in 1989
during a traffic accident in upper state New York.
“Billy, like all of us, had the ups and downs of life,” Snyder said. “Sadly, he had challenges far worse than many of us experienced. I for
one want to remember his good personal qualities. He also had success
as both a baseball player and baseball manager.