Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#130 - Reggie Jackson

Hey, it's Reggie! In the Oakland Coliseum no less. And there are fans there! That's a nice trifecta. Around the time of this card it seemed like Reggie and the A's would be winning the Series forever. No wonder, given Reggie's swing here. That's a nice cut. If he connected, it's probably a double to deep center (if it was a homer he'd already be watching it). '73 was Reggie's MVP year and one of his best seasons. He led the AL in runs, homers, and RBI's. He finally got his first Series time and delivered, though the work that got him that Mr. October nickname would come further down the road. Lots of trivia on this post: did you know Reggie was the first player of his era to wear a mustache? Did you know the ball girl on the '73 As would go on to be Mrs. Fields, the cookie lady? I bring up that last bit because while looking for some Reggie dirt, I came upon this great site with a bunch of old photos of Oakland guys, called ronreisterer.photoshelter.com. It is linked to on the name and should definitely be checked out.

Reggie Jackson - who has a thoroughly detailed wiki page by the way - grew up in PA and went to Arizona State. He was both a football and baseball star in high school and was actually more sought after for the former sport but he ended up getting really banged up playing for Frank Kush and opted for just baseball. In his one year on the Sun Devil baseball team he hit .325 with 15 homers and 65 RBI's and was named All-American. He was then signed by Kansas City (the A's) in '66 and got things rolling pretty quickly with 23 homers in only half a season of minor league ball. In '67 he experienced his first taste of southern hospitality in Birmingham and showed some speed as well as power, hitting 17 triples. By the end of the year he was up top with his fellow ASU boys Sal Bando and Rick Monday. While that partial season was nothing special, he did connect for some massive bp homers as well as get 46 strikeouts in 118 at bats. In '68 he was a starter and led the league in Ks, but he did hit 29 homers and 74 RBIs in a notorious year for AL hitters. In '69 he raised his average 25 points while cranking 47 homers and leading the league with 123 runs and a .608 slugging percentage. Oakland assigned Joe Dimaggio to help Reggie cut down on the whiffs, but Reggie wanted the long ball too badly. In '70, after an acrimonious contract negotiation, he had a huge slump, basically halving his power numbers. But in '71 he recovered to lead Oakland to the division title, the A's first post-season appearance in 40 years. In '72 he had a comparable season and scored the tying run in the last game of the AL playoffs against Detroit. Unfortunately he messed up his hamstring on the play and couldn't play in the Series that year.

In 1973, hopes were high for Oakland to repeat, but the team was playing .500 ball when June opened and Reggie was benched, something he hadn't experienced for a while. He also got into a fight with coach Jerry Adair. But the A's hit a winning streak going into the All-Star break and Reggie would go on to have his MVP season. He had big power seasons in '74 and '75, combining for 181 runs, 65 homers, and 197 RBI's. Both were division-winning seasons for Oakland and the second season Reggie again led the AL in homers with 36. But after a couple years of arbitration he and Charlie O were at an impasse and before the '76 season Reggie was sent to the Orioles with Ken Holtzman for Don Baylor and Mike Torrez. He wasn't crazy happy about going cross-country and had to tie up some business stuff so missed the first few weeks of the season but still had a fine year, with 27 homers and 91 RBI's. After that season Reggie became the biggest name free agent.

Jackson rather quickly signed for the only team that could house his ego, the Yankees, where he either was or was not "the straw that stirred the drink." But he did help NY get two new elusive Series wins in '77 and '78 in pretty grand style, especially in his three homer game to clinch the '77 win. That year he led NY sluggers with 110 RBI's. In '78 he and Billy Martin went at it pretty hard; Billy won some of the battles, actually benching Reggie for a few games, but Reggie won the war which partly resulted in Billy's firing. Plus he finished the year with yet another ring in what was his beat total post-season run - a .417 average with four homers and 14 RBI's in ten games. In '79 Reggie was about the only Yankee hitter to have a good season and in '80, tired of hearing that he couldn't hit .300, he did just that, producing perhaps his best season which included an AL-leading 41 homers and 111 RBI's. His final year in NY was a bit of a disappointment as his numbers fell pretty hard in the strike season. But it was a productive stay as in five years the Yankees made the post-season four times and won two rings.

In '82 Jackson signed as a free agent with the Angels in  what would generally be his last great season with a .275/39/101 line. A knee injury in '83 contributed to a big drop in power and a sub-.200 average. The next two seasons he would put up a combined 52 homers and 166 RBI's and then after another discounted power year in '86 - his final trip to the post-season - he returned to Oakland for his final season. He was elected to the Hall his first shot in '93 based on his 563 homers and 1,702 RBIs. He also hit .262 and stole 228 bases. He made 14 All-Star teams. His Mr. October sobriquet was earned by hitting .357 with 10 homers, 24 RBIs, and a .457 OBA in 27 Series games. Overall in the post-season he hit .278 with 18 homers and 48 RBI's in 77 games.

Reggie stayed high profile after playing. He'd started announcing before he retired and has been an avid car collector for decades. He coached in Oakland and has been with the Yankees in various posts since the mid-'90s.

That second star bullet was a big deal. Lots of attendees said it was the hugest hit they ever saw and estimates are it would have gone close to 700 feet if it didn't hit part of the stadium. He would win a couple Series MVP's before he was done. In 1972 Reggie was the first player to appear on a Topps baseball card with a mustache. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banished them back in the Twenties and nobody had worn one since. The A's jumped all over it and by season's end everyone that could grow one on the team had one.

These two guys were left coasters but in different leagues:

1. Reggie and Rick Reuschel '81 Yankees;
2. Reuschel and Chris Speier '87 to '89 Giants.

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