The story is told of a Texas congressmen and the Speaker of the House, who met for drinks at a Georgetown tavern. As the younger representative talked in great detail about his knowledge of politics, Sam Rayburn stopped and said, "Lyndon, shut up and listen to Billy Martin if you actually want to learn something about this town."

For generations of Washingtonians, the name Billy Martin was less associated with the combative New York Yankees ballplayer and manager, and more of the legendary local player and restaurateur of the same name. Born in Washington to Irish immigrants, Billy G. Martin was a star athlete at Georgetown Prep who joined the varsity basketball team in the fall of 1910--at 16, the youngest recorded player in the school's basketball history. Despite playing in just half the team's 12 games, Martin finished fifth in scoring. Martin would eventually star in three sports at the Hilltop, with baseball (to which he pursued a pro career) was his most promising.

"A right-handed thrower and batter, at 5-feet-8 and 170 pounds he was muscular and built like a fireplug," writes author Bob Joel, whose biography of Martin is featured at the web site of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR). "The young Irishman had a fiery disposition and seemingly boundless amounts of energy. He immediately made a name for himself playing on the hardwood court, the gridiron, and the baseball diamond as a freshman. By 1912, Martin was an established local star attracting much attention from area teams desiring his services."

Martin was second in scoring in the 1911 season, where the Hoyas' 13-7 season won its the unofficial South Atlantic championship. A leg injury attributed to an early season football game ended Martin's 1911 gridiron season and he also missed the 1911-12 basketball season as a result. Martin went on to play two more seasons but comparatively less time in games; as a practical matter, his focus had turned to the diamond as Martin was considered major league material by his senior year.

At the conclusion of the 1914 baseball season, he was signed by the Cleveland Naps but broke an ankle in the Hilltopppers' final regular season game at Princeton. Martin was claimed on waivers by the Boston Braves and sat in the dugout as the Braves made their legendary run to the 1914 World Series. Martin played in just one game, and according to Joel's article, his teammates opted not to award Martin a full share of the Series winnings as a result.

Injuries ultimately derailed Martin's pro career, where he finished in the minor leagues as late as 1920. Returning to Washington, he entered the real estate business and was reputed to be a bootlegger during Prohibition. In 1933, Martin and his father, Billy S. Martin, purchased a delicatessen on Wisconsin Avenue and converted it to Billy Martin's Tavern, which was founded in 1933 and formally opened on the younger Billy's 40th birthday in 1934.

"Back in the 30s it was the heart of the depression," said Billy Martin, the tavern's fourth generation owner, in a 2010 interview. "Georgetown back then, as we know, was a very blue collar neighborhood. Actually I think Georgetown even then was pretty much an African American neighborhood. So, with a few Irish families tucked in here and there, ours happened to be one of them."

The tavern quickly became a popular stop on the Washington political circuit, with Martin as its impresario, regaling guests with stories of his sports career at Georgetown and with the Braves. In a 2010 interview, his grandson tells one of many stories about his grandfather's popularity among the city's elite.

One day, following a dispute at the tavern, the eldest Martin got up and quit. The next day, the city padlocked the tavern, owing to the fact that as a former bootlegger, the younger Martin did not possess the liquor license but his father, having quit, actually did.

"So with that, they immediately went downtown and with the help of Sam Rayburn they were able to get a liquor license for my grandfather. At that point in time, he came back with some bolt cutters and he cut the lock off."

Over eighty years later, Martin's Tavern remains a Georgetown mainstay, and is perhaps the only major restaurant along Wisconsin Avenue which has survived the constant upheaval among shops along that street. Every U.S. president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush is said to have dined there, with John F. Kennedy proposing to his wife at what is now called the "Proposal Table".

Billy G. Martin died from a stroke in 1949 and was posthumously named to the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1953.

Season

GP

GS

Min

FG

FGA

%

3FG

3GA

%

FT

FTA

%

Off

Reb

Avg

PF

Ast

Blk

Stl

Pts

Avg

1909-10 6 27 4.3
1910-11 15 86 5.9
1912-13 2 0 0.0
1913-14 6 14 2.3
Totals 29 127 4.3