Thursday, October 20, 1977

Yankees’ Center of Controversy

“Reggie Jackson on your ball club,” Reggie Jackson said on his second day of spring training with the Yankees last March, “is part of a show of force. It’s a show of power. I help to intimidate the opposition, just because I’m here. That’s part of my role.”

His teammates did not accept him at first; then, just as Thurman Munson, the acknowledged team leader, had made a breakthrough, a magazine article appeared in which Jackson was quoted (accurately) as saying, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink. Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad.” (Was he provoked by Munson’s racist comments? Munson was not the leader of the black players).

Jackson, never one of the crowd wherever he was, spent the rest of the season virtually alienated from the rest of the team. Billy Martin didn’t like him either, despite his hitting ability, because he was Steinbrenner’s prize. Not the manager’s.

Jackson’s ultra-sensitivity and his insecurity plagued him during the first few months of the season. His constant show of money (he would sit in the aisle seat on the team bus and count his ‘roll,’) his frequent references to his so-called ‘160 IQ’ and his compulsive loquaciousness did nothing to endear him to the other players. Resulting slights by his teammates bothered him and affected his play.

He sees a lot of girls,” a friend related yesterday, “but he doesn’t need the East Side singles bars, the Joe Namath bar scene. He goes to bed early. One o’clock is late for him. It’s not what you would expect from a bachelor athlete living in New York.”

Jackson avoids liquor, prefering white wine and an occasional beer.

On a shopping trip in KC with Hunter, Gullet and Pinella, only Pinella, the only nonmillionare in the group, purchased anything. “Lou bought $50 shoes, but I would neve wear anything like that,” said Jackson, minutes after counting the $100 bills in his wallet. “He also got some $20 shirts, but the shirt I’m wearing now cost $60.)

His superiority (actually inferiority – result of racism?) complex created problems with other Yankees. The problems, in turn, helped plunge Jackson into periodic states of deep depression. Only Fran Healy, a seldom used catcher was able to stir Jackson out of those depths, becoming his confidant and his only genuine friend on the team.”

“He’s extremely complex, sensitive, articulate, loquacious and at times controversial,” Healy said yesterday before the parade. “One thing is for certain: he’s not one dimension. As a baseball player, under the circumstances, he had a great year.”

Jackson reached his lowest point the night of the final game against KC when Martin removed him from the lineup. One the plane ride home Jackson was severely depressed and filled with hatred for Martin.

Then, just nine days later, the dramatic and dynamic qualities soared to the top of Jackson’s being and he concluded the most trying year of his life with an exhibition that only he among present day players could have produced.

“If we win tonight,” Hunter and Ken Holtzman, also Jackson’s teammates in Oakland, had said before the game Tuesday night, “Reggie will be the hero. We’ll bet our salaries on it.”

Like Jackson, they were winners.


Most home runs, consecutive, in game – Three
Most home runs in a Series – Five
Most total bases in a Series – Twenty-Five
Most runs in a Series – Ten
Most home runs in a game – Three tying Babe Ruth who did it twice
Most runs in game – Four – tied four other including Enos Slaughter
Most total bases in game – twelve tying Babe Ruth

ex NYT Chass 10/20/77

No comments: