Reggie Jackson : biography
Jackson’s first season with the Yankees, 1977, 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.Wayne Coffey, , New York Daily News. Retrieved 3 August 2007 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."Anderson, D: "1977: Reggie", "The Baseball Reader", page 11. Lippincott & Crowell, Publishers, 1980 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 notorious slow runner, hit a ball into shallow right field that Jackson appeared to weakly attempt to field. Jackson failed to reach the ball which fell far in front of him, thereby allowing Rice to reach 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 two 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. However, George Steinbrenner made a crucial intervention when he gave Martin the option of either having Jackson bat in the 4th or "cleanup" spot for the rest of the season, or losing his job. Martin made the change and Jackson’s hitting improved (he had 13 home runs and 49 RBIs over his next 50 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 came from behind in the top of the 9th inning in the fifth and final game of the American League Championship Series to beat the Kansas City Royals for 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 Games Four and Five of the Series.