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Reggie Jackson

Reginald Martinez Jackson (born May 18 1946), nicknamed "Mr. October" for his clutch hitting in the postseason, is an American former Major League Baseball right fielder who played for five different teams from to . He won three consecutive World Series titles as a member of the Oakland A's in the early 1970s and also won 2 consecutive titles with the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Biography

Youth and early career

Reggie Jackson was born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia, the son of former Afro Puerto Rican Negro Leagues player Clarence Jackson, of Oakland, California, and Clara, an Afroamerican. Reggie's paternal grandmother was born in St. Croix.

Jackson graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1964, where he had excelled in both football and baseball and was a classmate of Yonatan Netanyahu. Jackson attended Arizona State University on a football scholarship. There, he met Jannie Campos, his first wife, a Mexican-American. He switched to baseball following his freshman year, impressing coach Bobby Winkles with his great baseball skill.

Jackson had a superb sophomore season playing for Winkles. In the 1966 baseball draft, Jackson was selected by the Kansas City Athletics. He was the 2nd overall draft pick in the 1st round, behind catcher Steve Chilcott, who was selected by the New York Mets. Jackson progressed through the minors quickly, playing one season for the A's Class A team in Modesto, California, and one more season for their Class AA affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama. It was in Birmingham that Jackson got his first taste of racism, as he was the only Latino-American player on the team. He credits John McNamara, the team's manager at the time, for helping him through that difficult season.

Jackson debuted in the major leagues with the A's on June 9, , a 6-0 A's victory over the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. Following that season, the Athletics moved to Oakland. Jackson hit 47 home runs in , and was briefly ahead of the pace that Roger Maris set when he broke the single-season record for home runs with 61 in , and that of Babe Ruth when he set the previous record of 60 in . Jackson later said that the sportswriters were claiming he was "dating a lady named 'Ruth Maris.'" That off-season, Jackson sought an increase in salary, and A's owner Charlie Finley threatened to send Jackson to the minors. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn successfully intervened in their dispute, but Jackson's numbers in dropped sharply, as he hit just 23 home runs while batting .237.

Jackson hit a memorable home run in the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Batting for the American League against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, the ball he hit soared above the right-field stands, striking the transformer of a light standard on the right field roof. In , he would hit a home run over that roof.

Oakland championships

In , the A's won the American League's Western Division title, their first first-place finish since , when they played in Philadelphia. They lost the American League Championship Series to the Baltimore Orioles. The A's won the Division again in ; their series with the Tigers went five games, and Jackson scored the tying run in the clincher on a steal of home. In the process, however, he tore a hamstring and was unable to play in the World Series. The A's still managed to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. It was the first World Championship won by a San Francisco Bay Area team in any major league sport.

He helped the A's win the pennant again in , and was named Most Valuable Player of the American League for the season. The A's defeated the New York Mets in seven hard-fought games in the World Series. This time, Reggie was not only able to play, but his performance led to his being awarded the Series' Most Valuable Player award. The A's won the World Series again in , defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games. This Series marked the first time that two teams from California played each other for a sport's World Championship, and, through 2007, the only time a team other than the New York Yankees has won three consecutive World Series. While playing in Philadelphia, the A's had won three straight pennants from to , but lost the third World Series in that stretch after winning the first two.

The A's won the Division again in , but the loss of pitcher Catfish Hunter, baseball's first modern free agent, left them vulnerable, and they were swept in the ALCS by the Boston Red Sox. With the coming of free agency after the season, and with A's owner Charlie Finley unwilling to pay the higher salary that Jackson would ask for, Jackson was traded on April 2, 1976 along with minor leaguer Bill VanBommell and Ken Holtzman to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell. Both his new team, the Orioles, and his former team, the Athletics, finished second in their respective divisions. Reggie Jackson tied the then American League record of hitting home runs in six consecutive games at Baltimore in 1976.

Besides putting up monster numbers during his nine years with the A's, including 254 home runs, Jackson was also no stranger to controversy or conflict in Oakland. Sports author Dick Crouser wrote, "When the late Al Helfer was broadcasting the Oakland A's games, he was not too enthusiastic about Reggie Jackson's speed or his hustle. Once, with Jackson on third, teammate Rick Monday hit a long home run. 'Jackson should score easily on that one,' commented Helfer. Crouser also noted that, "Nobody seems to be neutral on Reggie Jackson. You're either a fan or a detractor." One-time teammate Darold Knowles would seem to be in the latter camp. "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson," he said.

Perhaps the most notable off-field incident involving Jackson occurred on June 5, 1974, when outfielder Billy North and Jackson engaged in a clubhouse fight at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. Jackson injured his shoulder, and catcher Ray Fosse, attempting to separate the combatants, suffered a crushed disk in his neck, costing him three months on the disabled list.

Arriving in the Bronx

The Yankees signed Jackson to a five-year contract, totaling $2.96 million, on November 29, . Upon arriving in New York, the number 9 that he had worn in Oakland and Baltimore was worn by third baseman Graig Nettles. Jackson asked for number 42, in memory of Jackie Robinson. But manager Billy Martin brought his friend Art Fowler in as pitching coach, and gave him number 42. So, noting that then-all-time home run leader Hank Aaron had just retired, Jackson asked for and received number 44, Aaron's number. On his first day in spring training the following February, however, Jackson wore number 20 before switching to 44.

Jackson's first season with the Yankees, , was a difficult one. Although team owner George Steinbrenner and several players, most notably catcher and team captain Thurman Munson and outfielder Lou Piniella, were excited about his arrival, Martin was not. Martin had managed the Tigers in 1972 when Jackson's A's beat them in the playoffs. Jackson was once quoted as saying of Martin, "I hate him, but if I played for him, I'd probably love him."

The relationship between Jackson and his new teammates was strained due to an interview with SPORT magazine writer Robert Ward. During spring training at the Yankees' camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jackson and Ward were having drinks at a nearby bar. Jackson's version of the story is that he noted that the Yankees had won the pennant the year before, but lost the World Series to the Reds, and suggested that they needed one thing more to win it all, and pointed out the various ingredients in his drink. Ward suggested that Jackson might be "the straw that stirs the drink." But when the story appeared in the May 1977 issue of SPORT, Ward quoted Jackson as saying, "This team, it all flows from me. I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad."

Jackson has consistently denied saying anything negative about Munson in the interview and that his quotes were taken out of context. However, Dave Anderson of the New York Times subsequently wrote that he had drinks with Jackson in July 1977, and that Jackson told him, "I'm still the straw that stirs the drink. Not Munson, not nobody else on this club. Regardless, as Munson was beloved by his teammates, Martin, Steinbrenner and Yankee fans, the relationships between them and Jackson became very strained.

On June 18, in a 10-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox in a nationally-televised game at Fenway Park in Boston, Jim Rice, a powerful hitter but a slow runner, hit a ball into right field that Jackson seemed to get to without much speed, and Rice reached second base. Furious, Martin removed Jackson from the game without even waiting for the end of the inning, sending Paul Blair out to replace him. When Jackson arrived at the dugout, Martin yelled that Jackson had shown him up. They argued, and Jackson said that Martin's heavy drinking had impaired his judgment. Despite Jackson being eighteen years younger, about four inches taller and maybe forty pounds heavier, Martin lunged at him, and had to be restrained by coaches Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. Red Sox fans could see this in the dugout and began cheering wildly, and the NBC TV cameras showed the confrontation to the entire country.

Yankee management managed to defuse the situation by the next day, but the relationship between Jackson and Martin was permanently poisoned. Nevertheless, late in the season, after resisting requests from various sources to do so, most particularly Steinbrenner, Martin put Jackson in the fourth position in the batting order, the "cleanup" position generally reserved for the team's most powerful hitter. Jackson's hitting improved (he had 13 home runs and 49 RBIs over his last 51 games), and the team went on a winning streak. On September 14, while in a tight three-way race for the American League Eastern Division crown with the Red Sox and Orioles, Jackson ended a game with the Red Sox by hitting a home run off Reggie Cleveland, giving the Yankees a 2-0 win. The Yankees won the division by two and a half games over the Red Sox and Orioles, and beat the Kansas City Royals to win the pennant.

During the World Series against the Dodgers, Munson was interviewed, and suggested that Jackson, because of his past post-season performances, might be the better interview subject. "Go ask Mister October," he said, giving Jackson a nickname that would stick. (In Oakland, he had been known as "Jax" and "Buck.") Jackson hit home runs in Game 4 and Game 5 of the Series.

Jackson's crowning achievement came with his three-home-run performance in Game 6, each on the first pitch, off three different Dodger pitchers. (His first at-bat, during inning two, resulted in a four-pitch walk.) The first came off starter Burt Hooton, and was a line drive shot into the lower right field seats at Yankee Stadium. The second was another line drive off reliever Elias Sosa into roughly the same area. With the fans chanting his name, "Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE!" the third came off reliever Charlie Hough, a knuckleball pitcher, making the distance of this home run particularly remarkable. It was a towering drive into the black-painted "hitter's background" seats in center, 475 feet away, one that stunned the ABC Television sportscasters covering it:

Keith Jackson: High...

Tom Seaver (interrupting): Good-BYE, that's WAY out...

As the ball bounced into the black bleachers, the first time a Yankees player had hit those stands in Yankee Stadium's post-renovation configuration...

Howard Cosell: Oh, what a blow! What a way to top it off! Forget about who the Most Valuable Player is in the World Series. How this man has responded to pressure! Oh, what a beam on his face. How can you blame him? He's answered the whole WORLD! After all the furor, after all the hassling, it comes down to this!

Since Jackson had hit a home run off Dodger pitcher, Don Sutton, in his last at bat in Game 5, his three home runs in Game Six meant that he had hit four home runs on four consecutive swings of the bat against four different Dodger pitchers. Jackson became the first player to win the World Series MVP award (named for Babe Ruth, the only other player to hit three home runs in a World Series game) for two different teams. In 27 World Series games, he amassed 10 home runs, including a record five during the 1977 Series (the last three on first pitches), 24 RBI and a .357 batting average.

The Bronx Zoo

The Yankees' home opener of the season, on April 13 against the Chicago White Sox, featured a new product, the "Reggie Bar." In 1976, while playing in Baltimore, Jackson had said, "If I played in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me." The Curtiss Candy Company—appropriately enough, producers of the Baby Ruth bar (which the company has maintained was not named after Babe Ruth)—responded with a circular "bar" of peanuts dipped in caramel and covered in chocolate. The Reggie bars were handed to fans as they walked into Yankee Stadium. Jackson hit a home run, and when he returned to right field the next inning, fans began throwing the Reggie bars on the field in celebration. Jackson told the press that this confused him, thinking that maybe the fans did not like the candy. The Yankees won the game, 4-2.

But the Yankees could not maintain their success, as manager Billy Martin lost control. On July 23, after suspending Jackson for disobeying a July 17 sign, Martin made a statement about his two main antagonists, referring to comments Jackson had made and team owner George Steinbrenner's 1972 violation of campaign-finance laws: "They're made for each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted." It was moments like these that gave the Yankees the nickname "The Bronx Zoo."

Martin resigned the next day (some sources have said he was actually fired), and was replaced by Bob Lemon, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians recently fired as manager for the White Sox. Steinbrenner, a Cleveland-area native, had hired former Indians star Al Rosen as his team president (replacing another Cleveland figure, Gabe Paul.) Steinbrenner jumped at the chance to involve another hero of his youth with the Yankees; Lemon had been one of Steinbrenner's coaches during the Bombers' pennant-winning 1976 season.

14 games behind the first-place Red Sox on July 18, the Yankees finished the season in a tie for first place. The two teams played a one-game playoff for the division title at Fenway Park, with the Yankees winning 5-4. Although the home run by light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent in the seventh inning got the most notice, it was an eighth-inning home run by Jackson that gave the Yankees the fifth run they ended up needing. The next day, with the American League Championship Series with the Royals beginning, Jackson hit a home run off the Royals' top reliever at the time, Al Hrabosky, the flamboyant "Mad Hungarian." The Yankees won the pennant in four games, their third straight.

Jackson was once again in the center of events in the World Series, again against the Dodgers. The Dodgers won the first two games, taking the second when rookie reliever Bob Welch struck Jackson out with the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning. The Yankees won Game 3 on several fine defensive plays by third baseman Graig Nettles, and took Game 4 in ten innings. The key play came in the sixth inning when Lou Piniella hit a low line drive with Jackson on first. Jackson had to stop between bases, not knowing if the ball would be caught. It was not, and Dodger shortstop Bill Russell stepped on second to force Jackson and threw to first. The ball hit Jackson on the right hip and caromed away while Piniella reached first and advanced to second, with Thurman Munson scoring. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda argued with the umpires, saying that Jackson intentionally interfered and that Piniella should also be declared out. The umpires did not change their call, and the Yankees went on to win. The Yankees won the series in Game 6, with Jackson getting revenge on Welch with a home run.

Later career

In , Jackson batted .300 for the first and only time in his career, and his 41 home runs tied with Ben Oglivie of the Milwaukee Brewers for the American League lead. However, the Yankees were swept in the ALCS by the Kansas City Royals.

In , the last year of his Yankee contract, Jackson endured several difficulties from George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner consulted Jackson about signing then-free agent Dave Winfield, and Jackson expected Steinbrenner to work out a new contract for him as well. Steinbrenner never did (some say never intending to) and Jackson played the season as a free agent. Jackson started slowly with the bat, and, when the 1981 Major League Baseball strike began, Steinbrenner invoked a clause in Jackson's contract forcing him to take a complete physical examination. Jackson was outraged and blasted Steinbrenner in the media. When the season resumed, Jackson's hitting improved, partly to show Steinbrenner he wasn't finished as a player. He hit a long home run into the upper deck in Game 5 of the strike-forced 1981 American League Division Series with the Brewers, and the Yankees went on to win the pennant again. However, Jackson injured himself running the bases in Game 2 of the 1981 ALCS and missed the first two games of the World Series, both of which the Yankees won.

Jackson was medically cleared to play Game 3, but manager Bob Lemon refused to start him or even play him, allegedly acting under orders from Steinbrenner. The Yankees lost that game and Jackson played the remainder of the series, hitting a home run in Game 4. However, they lost the last three games and the Series to the Dodgers.

Jackson became a free-agent again once the 1981 season was over. The owner of the California Angels, legendary entertainer Gene Autry, had heard of Jackson's desire to return to California to play, and signed him to a five-year contract.

On April 27, , in Jackson's first game back at Yankee Stadium with the Angels, he broke out of a terrible season-starting slump to hit a home run off former teammate Ron Guidry. The at-bat began with Yankee fans, angry at Steinbrenner for letting Jackson get away, starting the "Reg-GIE!" chant, and ended it with the fans chanting "Steinbrenner sucks!" By the time of Jackson's election to the Hall of Fame, Steinbrenner had begun to say that letting him go was the biggest mistake he has made as Yankee owner.

That season, the Angels won the American League West, and would do so again in , but lost the American League Championship Series both times. On September 17, , on the 17th anniversary of the day he hit his first home run, he hit his 500th, at Anaheim Stadium off Bud Black of the Royals.

In , he signed a one-year contract to return to the A's, wearing the number 44 with which he was now most associated rather than the number 9 he previously wore in Oakland. He announced he would retire after the season, at the age of 41. In his last at-bat, at Comiskey Park in Chicago on October 4, he collected a broken-bat single up the middle, but the A's lost to the White Sox, 5-2. He is the last Kansas City A's player to play in a Major League Baseball game.

Jackson played 21 seasons and reached the post-season in 11 of them, winning six pennants and five World Series. His accomplishments include winning both the regular-season and World Series MVP awards in 1973, hitting 563 career home runs (sixth all-time at the time of his retirement), maintaining a .490 career slugging percentage, being named to 14 All-Star teams, and the dubious distinction of being the all-time leader in strikeouts with 2,597. Jackson was the first major leaguer to hit one hundred home runs for three different clubs, having hit over 100 for the Athletics, Yankees, and Angels.

During the spare time of his active career, Jackson worked as a field reporter and color commentator for ABC Sports. Just over a month before signing with the Yankees in fall 1976, Jackson did analysis in the ABC booth with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell the night his future team won the American League pennant on a homer by Chris Chambliss.

During the 1980s (1983, 1985, and 1987 respectively), Jackson was given the task of presiding over the World Series Trophy presentations. He also made cameo appearances in the films The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, in which he played the Angels' outfielder diabolically programmed to kill the Queen of England, Richie Rich, BASEketball, Summer of Sam and The Benchwarmers.

Jackson would also speak out on race relations, lobbying baseball teams to reach out to black former players to hire them as managers, coaches, scouts and front-office executives. On a lighter note, he likes to say, citing his African heritage, "When I was a boy, I was 'colored.' As a teenager, I was a 'Negro.' As a young man, I was 'black.' As an older man, I was 'African-American.' Now that I'm an old man, I'm 'multi-cultural.'" Jackson recalls, "During my youth, I was called, Nigger, Toad, Spearchucker, Ape, Watermelonhead and asked my father, why I was being called all these names. He replied, "Son, look at yourself, to look inward will give your that answer you desire."

Post-retirement honors

Jackson and Steinbrenner would reconcile, and Steinbrenner would hire him as a "special assistant to the principal owner," making Jackson a consultant and a liaison to the team's players, particularly the minority players. By this point, the Yankees, long noted for being slow to adapt to changes in race relations, have come to develop many minority players in their farm system and seek out others via trades and free agency. Jackson usually appears in uniform at the Yankees' current spring training complex in Tampa, Florida, and has been sought out for advice by current stars such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Jackson was inducted to the Hall of Fame in . He chose to wear a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque after the Oakland Athletics unceremoniously fired him from a coaching position in 1991.

The Yankees retired his uniform number 44 on August 14, , shortly after his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Athletics retired his number 9 on May 22, .

In , Jackson placed 48th on The Sporting News' list of "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players." That same year, he was named one of 100 finalists for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, but was not one of the 30 players chosen by the fans.

The Yankees dedicated a plaque in his honor on July 6, , which now hangs in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls him "One of the most colorful and exciting players of his era" and "a prolific hitter who thrived in pressure situations." Each Yankee so honored and still living was on hand for the dedication: Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Don Mattingly. Ron Guidry, a teammate of Jackson's for all five of his seasons with the Yankees, was there, and would be honored with a Monument Park plaque the next season. Out of respect to some of the players who Jackson admired while growing up, Jackson invited Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks to attend the ceremony, and each did so. Like Jackson, each was a member of the Hall of Fame and had hit over 500 career home runs. Each had also played in the Negro Leagues.

Jackson expanded his love of antique cars into a chain of auto dealerships in California, and used his contacts to become one of the foremost traders of sports memorabilia. He has also been the public face of a group attempting to purchase a major league team, already having made unsuccessful attempts to buy the Athletics and the Angels. His attempt to acquire the Angels along with Jimmy Nederlander (minority owner of the New York Yankees), Jackie Autry (widow of former Angel's owner, Gene Autry) and other luminaries was thwarted by Mexican American billionaire Arturo Moreno who outbid Jackson's group by nearly $50 million for the team in the winter of 2002.

In 2007, ESPN aired a mini-series called The Bronx is Burning, about the 1977 Yankees, with the conflicts and controversies around Jackson a central part of the storyline. Jackson is portrayed by Daniel Sunjata.

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