Reggie Jackson

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Reggie Jackson : biography

May 18, 1946 –

In 1971, the Athletics won the American League’s Western Division title, their first first-place finish since 1931, when they played in Philadelphia. They lost the American League Championship Series to the Baltimore Orioles. The A’s won the Division again in 1972; 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 championship won by a San Francisco Bay Area team in any major league sport.

During spring training in 1972, Jackson showed up with a mustache. Though his teammates wanted him to shave it off, Jackson refused. Finley liked the mustache so much that he offered each player $300 to grow one, and hosted a "Mustache Day", featuring the last MLB player to wear a mustache, Frenchy Bordagaray, as master of ceremonies.

Jackson helped the Athletics win the pennant again in 1973, 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, Jackson was not only able to play, but his performance led to his being awarded the Series’ Most Valuable Player award. In the third inning of that seventh game, which ended in a 5–2 score, the A’s jumped out to a 4–0 lead as both Bert Campaneris and Jackson hit two-run home runs off Jon Matlack—the only two home runs Oakland hit the entire Series. The A’s won the World Series again in 1974, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Besides putting up monster numbers during his nine years with the Athletics, 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. Once when asked if Jackson was a hotdog (i.e., a show-off), he famously replied, "There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson."

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.

Baltimore Orioles (1976)

The A’s won the Division again in 1975, 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 1976 season, and with team owner 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.

New York Yankees (1977–1981)

The Yankees signed Jackson to a five-year contract totaling $2.96 million ($ in current dollar terms) on November 29, 1976. 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 (the number of Frank Robinson, who had also just retired) before switching to 44.