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Jackson, Reggie(1946–) - Baseball player, Shows Promise in Baseball and Other Sports, Attends College; Begins Baseball Career

series home world runs

Reggie Jackson became known as “Mr. October” for his outstanding athletic performances in baseball, particularly during post-season playoff competition and the World Series. A member of five world championship teams with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, Jackson is best known for hitting three home runs in one game of the 1977 World Series. His efforts matched the record of Yankee legend Babe Ruth, made him the first player to ever hit five home runs in one World Series, and secured his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Reginald Martinez Jackson was born on May 18, 1946, in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Martinez Clarence Jackson, was the son of a white Spanish woman and black man who operated his own tailoring and dry cleaning business after being a second baseman with the Newark Eagles in Negro League baseball from 1933 to 1938.

Clara Jackson, his mother, was a homemaker, but split the family and moved to Baltimore, Maryland, when Reggie was six years old. Reports vary on how many children went with her, but Reggie and some of his siblings remained with their father. The abandonment by his mother affected him deeply, yet it forced him to mature early and become an independent, self-reliant child.

When not in school, the younger Jackson helped out in the family business, gaining skills in tailoring, cleaning, and other aspects of clothing maintenance. His father demanded excellence and also inspired his son to show initiative and pursue worthwhile goals.

Shows Promise in Baseball and Other Sports

At the age of thirteen, Jackson was already recognized as the best baseball player in town and the only black athlete on the Greater Glenside Youth Club baseball team. He experienced racism in sports for the first time while playing against a team from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and failed in trying to impress observers with his ability. The disappointment motivated Jackson to improve, with the goal of becoming a professional athlete.

In 1960 Jackson entered Cheltenham Township High School in Philadelphia, where he became an outstanding athlete in football, basketball, and track, as well as baseball. As a senior, the left-handed Jackson pitched three no-hit games, had a batting average of .550, and ran the hundred-yard dash in 9.7 seconds.

When college recruiters began contacting the Jackson home, his father was as concerned about academic and educational opportunities for his son as athletics. As a result, Jackson followed his father’s advice to go to college instead of pursuing professional baseball when he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.

Attends College; Begins Baseball Career

After Jackson graduated from high school on June 20, 1964, he attended Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, on an athletic scholarship. He was recruited to play football for the university, but freshmen could not play in games. This was not the case in baseball, and after his first year at ASU, Jackson spent the summer of 1965 playing baseball for a team in the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Jackson returned to ASU, broke nearly every school record by the end of the baseball season, and was named the national College Player of the Year in 1966. On June 12 of that year Jackson was selected again during the second baseball free agent draft by Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics (A’s), and signed to an $85,000 contract with a new Pontiac automobile as an extra incentive. At the time Finley commented that Jackson would help him win a World Series, a prophecy that proved to be true.

At the age of twenty, Jackson left college to fulfill his dream, beginning with the Lewiston (Idaho) Athletics and the Modesto (California) Reds. During this period Jackson was trained as a fielder and continued to develop his powerful hitting swing. In nearly seventy games played with Lewiston and Modesto, Jackson hit twenty-three home runs with sixty runs batted in, but also struck out eighty-one times. When unsuccessful, he often exploded in anger and lashed out.

Jackson’s talent still earned him a quick promotion to the A’s minor league team in Birmingham, Alabama, where he led the Southern League with eighty-four runs scored despite his eighty-seven strikeouts. As a result, he was named the Southern League Player of the Year.

Becomes Major League Player

During the same year Jackson was promoted to the Kansas City Athletics major league team for the rest of the baseball season. The A’s were in tenth place with no prospects for postseason play, but Jackson served notice of things to come when he hit his first major league home run on September 15, 1967.

In his first full season with the team, which became the Oakland A’s after the organization relocated to California, Jackson became a national sensation by hitting twenty-nine home runs and driving in seventy-four runs. He also married his Mexican-American college sweetheart, the former Juanita (Jennie) Campos on July 8, 1968, and finished the season with the unfortunate distinction of 171 strikeouts, the second highest total for a season in major league history.

During the 1969 baseball season Jackson hit forty-seven home runs, and his number of runs scored and walks led the major leagues. His home runs, runs batted in, and slugging average that year became personal and career bests, but he also led the majors in strikeouts for the second of four straight years.

Jackson continued his personal development by playing winter baseball in San Juan, Puerto Rico between the 1970 and 1971 seasons, with coach and teammate Frank Robinson, who became the first African American manager (head coach) in major league baseball with the Cleveland Indians in 1975. At the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit, he added to his fame with a home run that hit a light tower, preventing it from going completely out of Tiger Stadium.

Owner Charles Finley’s dreams came true in 1972, as the A’s won the first of three straight world championships that year. Jackson injured himself in the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers and did not play in the World Series as his teammates defeated the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. In addition to his physical injury, Jackson saw his marriage end in divorce the same year.

Chronology

1946

Born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania on May 18

1966

Named College Player of the Year and drafted by Oakland Athletics

1967

Hits first major league home run on September 17

1968

Marries Juanita Campos

1972

Goes on injured list while Oakland wins World Series; divorces

1973

Plays in first World Series and wins MVP Award

1974

Helps Oakland win third straight world championship

1977

Hits three home runs in World Series game; wins championship and MVP with New York Yankees

1978

Helps New York win second straight world championship

1982

Leaves New York for California Angels

1987

Returns to Oakland Athletics for last season of baseball career

1993

Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

2005

Survives potentially fatal automobile accident

In 1973 Jackson led the AL in home runs and runs scored, won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award as the A’s repeated as AL champions, and was named Major League Player of the Year by Sporting News , a national publication. Jackson played in his first World Series against the New York Mets, helping his team to win with several key hits in the sixth game and his first World Series home run in the seventh game. He also led the A’s with six runs batted in (RBIs), and was named the most valuable player in the championship series.

Oakland won its third straight title the following year, against the Los Angeles Dodgers; however, the following season ended in disappointment. Even though he tied for most home runs in the AL with thirty-six in 1975, the team lost the AL championship series to the Boston Red Sox in three straight games.

Jackson’s personality often made for difficult relationships with teammates, but that was not the only reason the team lost its chemistry. His increased salary demands and holdouts led to clashes with Finley and team management during and after the 1975 season. As a result, Finley traded Jackson to the Baltimore Orioles in 1976. After one year in Baltimore, Jackson became a free agent, with offers from several teams for his services.

Takes Right Field and Center Stage in New York

Jackson turned down a five-year, $5 million contract to play for the Montreal Expos and was quoted in African American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary as saying, “if I played in New York, they’d name a candy bar after me,” comparing himself to legendary Yankee home run hitter Babe Ruth. After personally negotiating a nearly $3 million contract for five years and the bonus of a $60,000 Rolls Royce automobile with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, Jackson signed a hotel napkin with the words, “I will not let you down. Reginald M. Jackson.”

His huge salary, ego, reputation, and the high expectations of Yankee supporters created controversy immediately after he arrived in New York. Problems developed with several of his teammates and fans, especially after a sportswriter quoted Jackson as saying that “he was the straw that stirs the drink” during spring training before the 1977 season, according to Contemporary Black Biography . He also frequently clashed with Yankee manager Billy Martin, who was known to have as explosive a temperament as Jackson.

Hits Three Home Runs in One World Series Game

Despite these problems, Jackson made good on his promises during his first year with the Yankees. He drew sellout crowds to Yankee Stadium and major league ballparks all over the country, causing him to make the statement, “I could put meat in the seats,” as quoted in Contemporary Black Biography . Jackson fans, haters, and hecklers relished opportunities to see what the controversial athlete would do both on and off the baseball diamond.

Jackson’s crowning achievement in baseball came on October 18, 1977 during Game 6 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit three consecutive home runs in three at-bats in Yankee Stadium, each on the first pitch from three different Dodger pitchers (Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa, and Charlie Hough). His efforts not only clinched another world championship for the Yankees but also matched a feat that previously had only been accomplished by Babe Ruth in Game 4 of the 1923 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Jackson was named the most valuable player of the series, becoming the first player to win this distinction with two different teams.

Jackson stated that his three home runs in that game were the ultimate highlight of his baseball career. His prediction also came true in 1978, when the Standard Brands Company marketed the “Reggie Bar” to the public. His teammate with both the A’s and Yankees, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, was quoted in Contemporary Black Biography as saying, “When you unwrap a Reggie Bar, it tells you how good it is.”

Endures Stormy Season to Win Second World Series with Yankees

The 1978 baseball season began with great anticipation and expectations of Jackson and the Yankees to repeat as world champions. The number of egos involved with the team increased, and despite many heated arguments, meetings, and other distractions (including Jackson’s five-game suspension after a racially charged argument with Steinbrenner and disobeying Martin during a game), the talent of the Yankees prevailed and put the team back into contention for postseason play.

The Yankees were tied with their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox, on the last day of the regular season with 99 wins each. The teams met in Boston’s Fenway Park for a one-game playoff, with the winner moving on to the AL championship series. Jackson hit a home run in the eighth inning which provided the margin of victory, as they defeated the Red Sox by the score of five to four.

The team went on to defeat the Kansas City Royals in the AL championship series, as Jackson lived up to his “Mr. October” nickname with a .462 batting average in the four games. His output included two home runs and six RBIs, leading Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver to say, according to October Men , that Jackson “was simply the best late-season hitter ever.”

The World Series rematch against the Los Angeles Dodgers provided more drama, as Jackson struck out at a critical point in the second game. The Dodgers then led the series two games to none, before the Yankees won Game 3 behind ace pitcher Ron Guidry. Jackson was involved in a controversial base-running play that eventually turned Game 4 into another Yankee win to tie the series.

Jackson and the Yankees went on to win the fifth game in New York, and the sixth and final game in Los Angeles for a second straight world championship. Jackson hit a home run against the same pitcher who had struck him out in Game 2, but Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent was named the most valuable player for the series.

Tragedy and Turmoil During Final Years in New York

Exactly two weeks after the World Series ended, the son of Yankee manager Bob Lemon died on October 31 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Lemon resigned midway through the 1979 season. The team was in fourth place when Billy Martin returned as manager, but did not improve afterwards.

Jackson remained on the team due to contract obligations, despite his past history with Martin. The Yankees suffered another tragedy when catcher and team captain Thurman Munson died in an aircraft accident on August 2, 1979. Ironically, it was Munson who gave Jackson the nickname “Mr. October” during the 1977 World Series. The following year Jackson batted .300 for the only time in his career and hit 41 home runs during the regular season, but he and the Yankees lost three straight games to the Kansas City Royals in the AL championship series.

Jackson had only fifteen home runs during the 1981 season, which was shortened by a player strike. The Yankees made it back to the World Series against the Dodgers, after a five-game AL eastern division series and the AL championship series. Jackson hit two home runs against the Milwaukee Brewers in the division series but was not a factor in winning the AL championship over his old team, the Oakland Athletics.

The Yankees lost the 1981 World Series in six games to the Dodgers, as Jackson had four hits in only twelve at-bats, including his last World Series home run in Game 4. Steinbrenner did not sign Jackson to a new contract, making Jackson a free agent.

In 1982 Jackson headed west to play for the California Angels and owner Gene Autry, the singing cowboy and actor in Hollywood westerns and other films. During his first year with the team, Jackson tied for the AL lead in home runs and helped the Angels get as far as the AL championship series. He also got some satisfaction when he hit a home run against the Yankees the first time he returned to Yankee Stadium as a visiting player.

On September 17, 1984, Jackson reached another milestone when he hit home run number 500 during a home game against the Kansas City Royals. The date had double significance, in that he hit his first major league home run on the same day in 1967. Jackson continued with the Angels through the 1986 season, with the team again only getting to the AL championship series in the postseason. A personal highlight was passing Yankee legend Mickey Mantle when he hit home run number 537, putting Jackson in sixth place among major league players (at the start of the 2006 baseball season, he had moved down to tenth place).

After his contract with the Angels ended, Jackson returned to the Oakland Athletics for his last season in 1987. Jackson hit his last home run in Anaheim Stadium (the same place where he hit his first one and home run number 500) and a single in his last at-bat against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park, ending his career after twenty-one seasons with 563 home runs and the dubious record of the most strikeouts (2,597).

Enjoys Business Success, Honors, and Life after Baseball

In retirement, Jackson continued a number of business pursuits, including work as a part-time field reporter and color commentator for ABC Sports , cameo appearances in movies, and commercials as a spokesperson for various companies. He remained connected to the game by lobbying for increased involvement of minorities in baseball as front-office managers and executives, served as a consultant to the Oakland Athletics from 1988 to 1993, then reconciled with Steinbrenner and became a special assistant and liaison in the Yankee organization.

Jackson also turned his passion for automobiles into a multi-million dollar personal collection and ownership of several car dealerships. He also worked with the Upper Deck baseball card company, developed his own successful sports memorabilia company, invested wisely in real estate, fine art, and antiques, and avoided the financial problems faced by many former professional athletes.

In 1993 Jackson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the first year he was eligible for consideration. He received 396 out of 423 ballots (93.6%), and was the twenty-ninth player to enter on the first vote. At his induction ceremony, Jackson thanked his father, paid tribute to African American baseball trailblazers Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, and quoted Yankee legend Lou Gehrig in expressing appreciation for his baseball career.

The Yankees retired Jackson’s number 44 in a ceremony at Yankee Stadium on August 14 of that year. In 1999 Jackson placed forty-eighth among “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players” by The Sporting News , and his plaque was added to Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park on July 6, 2002. The Oakland Athletics followed suit several years later, when they retired Jackson’s uniform number 9 on May 22, 2004.

On two occasions, Jackson led a team of investors in attempts to gain ownership of a major league baseball franchise. His groups were outbid when the California Angels and Oakland Athletics were for sale, yet he continued efforts to become the first African American owner in major league baseball.

In March 2005 Jackson was spared serious injury after an automobile accident in Tampa, Florida, while there for spring training with the Yankees. In the account of the accident posted on his official website, he began with the words, “Thank God for having a hand on my shoulder.” In terms of his life and career achievements, past and present, it is obvious that this indeed has been the case.

Jackson, Robert R.(1870–1942) - Politician, entrepreneur, soldier, Chronology, Chicago Politics [next] [back] Jackson, Michael (1958–)

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