Reggie Jackson

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Reggie Jackson : biography

May 18, 1946 –

Jackson graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1964, where he excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. In his junior year of high-school, Jackson, a tailback, tore up his knee in an early season game. He was told by the doctors he was never to play football again, but Jackson returned for the final game of the season. In that game, Jackson fractured five cervical vertebrae, which caused him to spend six weeks in the hospital, and another month in a neck cast. Doctors told Jackson that he might never walk again, let alone play football, but Jackson defied the odds again. On the baseball team, he batted .550 and threw several no-hitters. In the middle of his senior year, Jackson’s father was arrested for bootlegging and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Collegiate career

In football, he was scouted by Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma, all of whom were willing to break the color barrier just for Jackson. Jackson declined Alabama and Georgia because he was fearful of the South at the time, and declined Oklahoma because they told him to stop dating white girls. For baseball, Jackson was scouted by Hans Lobert of the San Francisco Giants who was desperate to sign him. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins also made offers, and the hometown Philadelphia Phillies gave him a tryout, but declined because of his "hitting skills". His father wanted his son to go to college, where Jackson wanted to play both football and baseball. He decided to attend Arizona State University on a football scholarship. His high-school football coach knew the football coach for Arizona State Frank Kush, and they discussed the possibility of him playing both sports. After a recruiting trip, Kush decided that Jackson had the ability and willingness to work to join the squad.

One day after football practice, he approached baseball coach Bobby Winkles asking if he could join the team. Winkles said he would give Jackson a look, and the next day while still in his football gear, he hit a home run on the second pitch he saw. In five at bats he hit three home runs. He was allowed to practice with the team, but couldn’t join the squad because the NCAA had a rule forbidding the use of freshman players. Jackson switched permanently to baseball following his freshman year, as he didn’t want to become a defensive back. To hone his skills, Winkles assigned him to a Baltimore Orioles-affiliated amateur team. He broke numerous team records for the squad, and the Orioles offered him a $50,000 signing bonus if he joined the team. Jackson declined the offer stating that he doesn’t want to forfeit his college scholarship. In the beginning of his sophomore year Jackson replaced Rick Monday (who was the first player ever drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft) at center field. During that season he broke the team record for most home runs in a single season, led the team in numerous other categories and was first team All-American. Many scouts were looking at him play, including Tom Greenwade of the New York Yankees (who discovered Mickey Mantle), and Danny Murtaugh of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his final game at Arizona State, he showed his potential by being only a triple away from hitting for the cycle, making a sliding catch, and having an assist at home plate. Jackson was the first college player to hit a home run out of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball’s Super Showman, p.84, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0

Personal life

During his freshman year at Arizona State, he met Jennie Campos, a Mexican-American. Jackson asked Campos on a date, and discovered many similarities, including the ability to speak Spanish, and being raised in a single parent home (Campos’s father was killed in the Korean War). An assistant football coach tried to break up the couple because Jackson was black and Campos was considered white. The coach contacted Campos’s uncle, a wealthy benefactor of the school, and he warned the couple that their being together was a bad idea. But the relationship held up and she later became his first wife. Jackson has been divorced since 1973. Kimberly, his only child, was born in the 1990s.