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Pin-striped robin

MOST revolving doors are on building entrances. Customers make them turn. But one revolving door is inside a business: It's the managing job of baseball's New York Yankees. The owner makes it whirl -- about once a year. Twelve years of George Steinbrenner's ownership, 12 managers.

Emerging once again from that door is Billy Martin, baseball's pin-striped robin: If spring is here, can Billy Martin's appointment as Yankee manager be far behind? This is Martin's fourth time as Yankee manager.

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The Yankees aren't the only team that changes managers, they just do it more often than anybody else. Almost every year half a dozen clubs decide some other manager will make their batters hit better, base runners run faster, and pitchers throw more skillfully. Some do, some don't.

Yesteryear's managers had greater longevity, spending most of their careers with one or two teams. Marse Joe McCarthy and Leo (the Lip) Durocher managed a total of 24 years, Deacon Bill McKechnie and Casey (the Old Professor) Stengel for 25 years. John (Little Napoleon) McGraw did it for 33 years.

The all-time champ was the patrician Connie Mack, who wore a suit and tie even on summer's steamiest afternoons and rearranged his players' positions with sedate waves of his score card. He managed for 53 seasons, fifty with the same team. Of course, he had an advantage: Nobody else could fire him -- he owned the club.

Maybe that's the answer for today's managers in search of job security: Buy out the owner.

Billy Martin, are you listening? ----30{et

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