Jackson, Reggie 1946–
Reggie Jackson 1946–
Hall of Fame baseball player, businessman
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During Reggie Jackson’s spectacular 20-year baseball career, he led his teams to five world championships and 11 division titles. He was the owner of what the Chicago Tribune termed “the most famous left-handed swing in the business,” earned 12 trips to the All-Star Game, and was the American League home run champ four times. During his stellar major-league career as an outfielder and designated hitter, he hit 563 home runs, the sixth-highest total in the history of the game. Conversely, he is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 2,597.
Jackson’s World Series performances were truly remarkable. In five championships series, he carried a .357 average. In the 1977 World Series, Jackson hit three home runs in three consecutive at-bats and carried a .450 average. This incredible performance earned Jackson the title “Mr. October.” His impressive talents made him one of baseball’s most popular players. Fans packed the ballpark to see Jackson play, whether at home or on the road. As he remarked to the Chicago Tribune,”I could put meat in the seats.” Jackson capitalized on his success by signing one of baseball’s first multimillion dollar free agency contracts.
Reginald Martinez Jackson was born on May 18, 1946 to Martinez and Clara Jackson in Wyn-cote, Pennsylvania, a mostly white Philadelphia suburb. His parents’ marriage was rocky and the family’s homelife suffered as a result. As Jackson explained in his book, Reggie: The Autobiography: ”I wasn’t exactly brought up in one of those Norman Rockwell paintings you used to see on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.” When Reggie was six, his parents divorced and his mother left, taking three of Jackson’s siblings with her. Reggie stayed behind with his dad, half-brother, and sister.
Martinez Jackson ran a dry cleaning and tailoring shop that occupied the first floor of the family home. Reggie helped out in the shop when he wasn’t in school, and, he claimed, “...to this day, if I had to put a pocket on a pair of slacks, or put cuffs on them, I could do it. And make a pretty good living at it.” The elder Jackson was Reggie’s hero and instilled in him a sense of self-discipline and a strong desire to succeed. “To this day,” he said, “my father is almost a mythical figure to me. . .. ’You’ve always got to show initiative, Reggie,’he’d tell
At a Glance…
Born May 18, 1946, in Wyncote, PA; son of Martin ez (a tailor) and Clara (a homemaker) Jackson; married Jennie Campos in 1968, divorced 1972.Education: graduated from Cheltenham Township High School, two years at Arizona State University.
Played for the Oakland Athletics, 1967-75, Baltimore Orioles, 1976, New York Yankees, 1977-1981, California Angels, 1982-1986, and Oakland Athletics, 1987; advisor to the Oakland Athletics, 1988-1993, advisor to the New York Yankees, 1993—.
Awards: American League Most Valuable Player, 1973;Sporting News Major League Player of the Year, 1973; American League home run champion, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1982; member of the Sporting News American League All-Star team, 1969, 1971-75, 1977-82, 1984; inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, 1993.
Addresses: Agent-Matt Merola, 185 E 85th Street, Apt 18G, New York, NY 10028-2146.Office-New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium, 161 st Street and River Avenue, Bronx, NY 10451.
me, ’You’ve got to have ambition. Or you won’t amount to a hill of beans.’” His father was demanding, requiring excellence in everything from clothes to speech. As Reggie recalled in his autobiography,>? Clean was the thing: Dad always demanded clean....Biggest sin in the
world was to get the school clothes dirty. If I did, there was no discussion, nothing to argue about. If there were any problems with the clothes, there was always an excellent chance that Martinez Jackson would be looking to give a lickin.’
Reggie’s tremendous athletic ability was obvious from an early age. By the time Jackson was thirteen, he was considered the best ballplayer in town. He was also the only black player on his team, the Greater Glenside Youth Club. As a member of the Greater Glenside Youth Club, Jackson experienced racial prejudice for the first time. During a game against a visiting team from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Reggie’s coach benched him and refused to let him play. It was, he recalled, “the first time I’d ever come up against anything like that; the first time I ever realized that black was different, that black could be a problem.” When the coach finally let him pinch hit in the last game of the series, Reggie was determined to prove his worth and hit a home run. He struck out instead. What made him feel worse was the fact that his father had attended the game and seen him fail. “I just felt so ashamed after the game, ashamed I had gotten that one chance and failed me, failed him, failed everybody. He asked me if I wanted to ride home with him in the truck. I told him I wanted to walk. . . . And I walked. Crying....And every time I put a foot down, I’d say the same thing. ’I’m gonna be a major leaguer.’”
Despite this disappointment, Jackson’s reputation as an athlete continued to grow. He played baseball, basketball, football, and ran track. By the time he was a high school senior, he said, “I had football and baseball recruiters practically camped out on the doorstep.” Reggie’s talents were apparent to his father as well, but Martinez saw athletics as a ticket to a college education, not a possible career choice.
After graduating from high school, Jackson went to Arizona State University on a football scholarship. The gridiron workouts were particularly grueling, and Reggie began to practice with the baseball team as a respite. After two ASU baseball team members made a bet with Reggie that he couldn’t make the team, he arranged a tryout and won a spot on the team. During the summer of his freshman year, he played with the Baltimore Orioles’ farm team, and returned to the ASU baseball team the following autumn.
Signed with the Kansas City Athletics
By the end of Jackson’s sophomore year in 1966, his reputation as a baseball player had begun to attract the attention of major league scouts. He was ranked second in the pro draft, and several teams expressed an interest in him. He signed with the Kansas City Athletics for $85,000 and a new Pontiac, a sum that would seem paltry later in his career. Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, knew he’d made a good deal. “’Reggie,’ Jackson remembered him saying, ‘you’re going to win me a World Series some day.’”
Jackson spent his first year with the A’s as a member of their minor-league team, which was based in Birmingham, Alabama, and traveled with the team throughout the South. The South’s segregation laws were a rude awakening for Jackson. He found that landlords wouldn’t rent an apartment to him, he was routinely refused service in restaurants, and threatened with physical violence. One of his staunchest supporters was team manager John McNamara. If the team stopped at a restaurant and was refused service because of Jackson, McNamara would order the team to reboard the bus.
“He’d just take the whole team out of the restaurant, we’d get into the bus and we’d keep driving until we found a place that would serve us all. To my mind, McNamara was a giant,” Jackson recalled.
Jackson was called up into the major leagues for two stints, the first so brief that he called it his “cup-of-coffee tour.” In his second appearance with the Oakland A’s, in September 1967, he hit his first major-league home run. He finished the season with the team, and never went back to the minors. He stayed with Oakland from 1967 until 1975.
In 1972, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley ’s dream of a world championship was realized. However, Reggie was unable participate in the World Series because he’d torn a hamstring muscle in the fifth and final game of the American League championship series. Determined to score the tying run that would keep the A’s in the game, Jackson threw himself across home plate as the muscle tore, removing himself from any possible participation in the World Series. In addition to missing the World Series, his marriage to his college sweetheart ended in divorce.
The A’s won the world championship again in 1973 and Jackson was an integral part of the team’s success. He was named both American League Most Valuable Player and Sporting News Major League Player of the Year in 1973; he also led the American League in home runs. Jackson helped to lead the A’s to their third consecutive world championship in 1974 and was the American League’s home run leader in 1975.
In 1976, Jackson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and became a free agent the following year. The Montreal Expos offered $5 million for five years, explained Reggie, “but I decided that I wanted to play in the United States, old patriotic me. . . . and I’ve got to admit, that hot lady called New York and that smoothie Steinbrenner swept me off my feet.” Steinbrenner offered Jackson $2.96 million over three years, with a $60,000 bonus for a Rolls Royce. “It was all written out on a hotel napkin,” he recalled. On it, at the bottom, Jackson wrote, “’I will not let you down. Reginald M. Jackson.’”
Jackson’s arrival in New York got off to a difficult start. His huge salary and reputation as a slugger caused both the press and Yankee fans to expect superhuman feats from each at-bat. In addition, some team members were jealous of Jackson’s superstar status and snubbed him. “I wanted to be part of the Yankee family, “he explained
later, “and when everyone didn’t greet me with open arms, I drew back, got more insecure, and started running my mouth a little.”
Jackson angered his teammates further after a supposedly off-the-record conversation with a sports writer. When the writer asked Jackson what he thought he could contribute to the Yankees, Reggie answered that he was “the kind of guy who can put a team over the top.” He compared the Yankees to a mixed drink, and talked about all of the gifted players that were part of the team. “And I said, ’Maybe I’ve got the kind of personality that can jump into a drink like that and stir things up and get it all going.” The interview appeared several weeks later in Sport magazine and, according to Jackson, was greatly distorted and filled with negative comments about teammates that he never made. His statement about being the catalyst that could pull a talented team together was condensed into an egotistical self-promotion: “You know, this team ...it all flows from me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. It all comes back to me.” The story convinced many Yankee players and fans that Jackson’s ego was out of control.
In addition to his sometimes rocky relationship with teammates and fans, Jackson’s career in New York was also characterized by his contentious relationship with Yankee manager, Billy Martin. Martin and Jackson argued frequently and the animosity between them was palpable. During a nationally televised game against the Boston Red Sox, the tension between them boiled over publicly. The argument began after Martin charged that Jackson’s tentative fielding allowed a runner to reach second. As television cameras rolled, the two nearly came to blows in the dugout and had to be separated by teammates and coaches. “Neither man backed down,” reported the Boston Globe,”People knew Martin was tough. But after that incident, there was no doubting the toughness of Jackson. ”
Despite the difficulties, Jackson’s experience with the New York Yankees was not entirely negative. He helped the Yankees win world championships in 1977 and 1978, batting .450 in the 1977 World Series and .391 in the 1978 World Series. However, it was his remarkable feat of hitting three home runs on three first pitches from three different pitchers in three consecutive at-bats that earned Jackson a special place in the record books. Bob Oates of the Los Angeles Times called it, “the century’s peak [athletic] achievement.” “It was the happiest moment of my career,” Jackson said. “It is the happiest moment of my career.” In 1980, Jackson led the American League in home runs for the third time in his career. He also had a candy bar named after him, which led Catfish Hunter to quip in the Los Angeles Times,”When you unwrap a Reggie Bar, it tells you how good it is.”
Jackson stayed with the Yankees through the 1981 season and then spent five years with the California Angels. Although he was still popular with the fans, age and time had started to erode Jackson’s skills. As the Chicago Tribune reported, “The straw that stirs the drink has been told the party’s just about over. “However, Reggie still loved the game, and when a reporter asked him if he was still having fun, he replied “Sure, I’m having fun! At my salary, you’d be having fun, too.”
As his playing career drew to a close, Jackson shared the American League lead in home runs with Milwaukee’s Gorman Thomas in 1982. During his final season with the Angels in 1986, he hit his 563rd home run, which placed him sixth among all-time home run leaders. “It meant a lot,” he told the Chicago Tribune.”I wanted to remember the whole time. I guess I ran a tape recorder in my own mind: The pitch, how I left home plate, how I went around the bases, how I touched home plate and people’s hands I shook.”
In 1987, Jackson signed with the Oakland A’s for his final major league season. “The best thing that happened to me [in that final year] was in Boston, “Jackson recalled. “I came up [to bat], and Sherm Feller, the public-address announcer, said, ’Ladies and gentleman, in maybe his last appearance at Fenway Park, a future Hall of Famer, No. 44, Mr. October.’ That’s all. No Reggie Jackson. Just Mr. October. It’s something I’ll cherish.” He played his final game in Chicago, and although he wanted to go out with a “dinger,” he had to settle for two hits. He left the field to a standing ovation.
Following his retirement from baseball, Jackson pursued many business ventures: automobile dealer, product spokesman, sports analyst, and real estate developer. He served as an advisor to the Oakland A’s from 1988 to 1993, and the New York Yankees beginning in 1993.
In 1993, Reggie Jackson was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. In a heartfelt speech, Jackson thanked his father for his insistence on education and excellence, and for teaching him to “climb the ladder of equality with dignity,” quoted the Los Angeles Times. The Chicago Tribune reported that Jackson paid special tribute to Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, “I know I wasn’t the best. All I have to do is look behind me. . . . Thanks, Jackie; thanks, Larry. We owe you.” He ended his speech, reported the Boston Globe, with the words of another famous Yankee: “Friends, in the words of Lou Gehrig, today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I’ve had a dream and I’ve been able to live it.”
Boston Globe, January 6, 1993, p. 61; January 10, 1993, p. 54; August 2, 1993, p. 37.
Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1985; March 5, 1985;September 19, 1985; March 13, 1986; May 12,1986; May 19, 1986; October 8, 1986; December 25, 1986; July 1, 1987; July 2, 1987; September 29, 1987; October 2, 1987; October 5, 1987; March 28, 1988; August 26, 1988; May 1, 1990; January 6, 1993; August 1, 1993; August 2, 1993; August 9, 1993.
Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 1980, p. 14; July 27, 1993.
Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1993; August 1,1993; August 2, 1993; March 5, 1995.
ESPN SportsZone. Transcript of an April 14, 1997 online chat with Reggie Jackson.
Jackson, Reggie, and Mike Lupica.Reggie: The Autobiography. New York: Villard Books, 1984.
Rick Stewart/Allsport. Britannica Online. Black History biographies.
SportsLine USA-NewsWire, October 7, 1996.
Viking Components press release. “Mr. October Joins Leading Computer Memory Manufacturer in New Business Development Role.” Aug. 7, 1996.
—Amy Loerch Strumolo
American baseball player
In a career that spanned twenty-one seasons, with four different teams, Reggie Jackson, known as "Mr. October," for his outstanding play in the post-season, was known as an intelligent, outspoken, and often controversial figure. He was also a Hall of Fame player who became a drawing card wherever he played.
Reggie Jackson was born May 18, 1946, in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, to Martinez and Clara Jackson. He was the fourth of six kids and grew up in a mostly white Philadelphia suburb. His parents had a rocky marriage and divorced when he was six. Jackson went to live with his father, a self-employed tailor and dry cleaner. Martinez Jackson had played second base in the semi-pro
Negro Leagues, and he passed along his love of the game to his son.
Jackson revered his father. "To this day," Jackson says in his autobiography, "My father is almost a mythical figure to me." His dad instilled in him the desire to settle for nothing less than excellence. Except for his relationship with his father, however, Reggie was mostly a loner. Early on he became self-reliant. He was very determined and questioned everything, always ready with an opinion on whatever subject was being discussed.
Whether it was his father's influence or the time he spent in solitude, Jackson decided early on to never settle for mediocrity. He was going to be the best at baseball, just like his idol Willie Mays . In 1960, Jackson enrolled in Cheltenham Township High School in Philadelphia, and the coaches there gave him the guidance and discipline he needed to succeed.
By the time he was thirteen, Jackson was considered the best ballplayer in town. Not only that, but he was the only black ballplayer on the Greater Glenside Youth Club, where he would experience racial prejudice and see for the first time that "being black," as he put it in his autobiography, "could be a problem." Yet it would not deter him; in fact, it made him work even harder.
Football or Baseball?
Reggie Jackson began his college career in 1964 at Arizona State University. He entered the school on a full football scholarship, but soon discovered he didn't like the football regimen and began hanging around with the baseball team. By the end of his sophomore year, he was ranked second in the pro baseball draft and football was merely an afterthought.
The Kansas City (later Oakland) Athletics chose Reggie in the 1967 amateur draft, taking him second overall, and he soon was making his mark in professional baseball. After a few quiet years, Jackson caught the nation's attention by hitting a home run over the roof of Tiger Stadium in the 1971 All-Star Game. He also was in the spotlight because he was on a red hot A's team that dominated the World Series from 1972 to 1974.
Reggie Jackson was fast becoming a household name. Though he sat out the '72 Series, he came back from his hamstring injury and in '73 and '74, began his reign over the fall classic. Free agency allowed Jackson to move to the New York Yankees after the 1974 season, and he was on his way to the media capital of the world. Thus, his rocky relationship with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner would become legendary.
|1946||Born May 18 in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, to Martinez and Clara Jackson|
|1953||Parents divorce and Jackson becomes self-reliant|
|1960||Enrolls in Cheltenham Township High School in Philadelphia|
|1964||Begins college career at Arizona State University on a football scholarship|
|1967||Chosen second in the amateur draft by the Kansas City Athletics, who would move to Oakland before Reggie plays his first game|
|1972||Marriage to his college sweetheart ends in divorce|
|1974||Time Magazine puts Jackson on its cover|
|1976||Traded to Baltimore Orioles|
|1977||Becomes a free agent. Signs lucrative five-year contract with the New York Yankees|
|1978||The Reggie! bar named after Jackson|
|1980||Leads American League in home runs for the third time in his career|
|1982||Leaves Yankees when George Steinbrenner refuses to renew his contract|
|1987||Retires after final season with the California Angels|
|1993||Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame|
|1996||Takes front office position with the New York Yankees|
|1998||Fired by Steinbrenner for running up thousands of dollars in unapproved expenses on his team credit card|
|1999||Tries to buy the Oakland Athletics, but the deal doesn't go through|
|2002||Becomes a NASCAR team owner|
|2002||Honored at Yankee Stadium with a plaque during Old-Timers' Day festivities|
The postseason would be Reggie's stage. In the 1977 World Series, Jackson became the first player to ever hit five home runs in one World Series. He hit three in sixth game alone, setting yet another record by hitting those three off of three consecutive pitches, and off of three different Los Angeles Dodger pitchers. The feat has never been duplicated.
Jackson would earn Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the series and become The Big Apple's most popular man. He even had a candy bar, The Reggie! bar, named after him. A great story from the candy bar fiasco is how one day the Yankee promoters gave out a bar to the almost 45,000 fans at a 1978 early season home opener. When Jackson hit a home run in the game, the fans tossed their uneaten Reggie! bars to the field (the candy bars were reportedly not that tasty). White Sox manager Bob Lemon said, "People starving all over the world and 30 billion calories are laying on the field."
Jackson helped lead two teams to five World Championships in only seven years. Writer Mike Lupica, in an article that appeared in Esquire, called Jackson, "The most theatrical baseball player in the last quarter century."
Jackson retired after his 1987 season with the California Angels. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993, becoming only the 216th inductee, and the only player inducted that year. His achievements run both sides of the spectrum, from success to infamous. He hit ten World Series home runs, has five World Championship rings, and eleven American League Championships with three different teams. But Jackson also holds the major league record for lifetime strike-outs, at 2597. In later years, Jackson would say that, "all those pitches strung together, that's five years. For five years I never touched the ball." But when he did touch it, it often left the park. He belted 563 home runs, placing him sixth among all-time home run leaders at the time of his retirement.
In July of 2002, the Yankees honored Jackson with a plaque at Yankee Stadium. According to the New York Daily News, Jackson told reporters that he was "more nervous" on that day than he was during his first at bat with the Kansas City A's in 1967.
After he retired from baseball, Jackson became a prominent businessman. As recently as 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that Jackson was interested in purchasing the Oakland Athletics, but it never came to fruition. Had he done so, he would have "become baseball's leading minority investor."
In 2002, Jackson purchased a NASCAR team, becoming a partner with the Herzog Motorsports Busch Series team. The main tasks Jackson oversees, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is as a motivator and team builder.
|BAL: Baltimore Orioles; CAL: California Angels; KCA: Kansas City Athletics; NYY: New York Yankees; OAK: Oakland Athletics.|
Reggie Jackson thrived on attention and affection. He was an intelligent, outspoken, and often controversial figure who was highly recognizable, whether it be from his candy bar, his hot temper, or his famous left-handed swing. He hit hard, ran fast, and in a career that spanned twenty seasons, became a positive role model for black children. Jackson was an inspiration, demonstrating that that an athlete could be respected and successful without the use of drugs. Though people either loved him or hated him, he brought drama and excitement to the game, especially in the World Series as "Mr. October." His ability to shine in post-season play made him legend.
Address: Reggie Jackson, c/o Matt Merola (agent), 185 E 85th Street, Apt 18G, New York, NY 10028-2146.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY JACKSON:
Reggie Jackson's Scrapbook, E. P. Dutton, 1978.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1966||College Player of the Year|
|1967||Southern League Player of the Year|
|1969, 1971-75, 1977-84||American League All-Star team|
|1969, 1973, 1975-76, 1980||Sporting News American League All-Star Team|
|1973||American League most valuable player; Sporting News Major League Player of the Year|
|1973, 1977||World Series most valuable player|
|1993||Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame|
(With Mike Lupica) Reggie: The Autobiography, Villard Books, 1984.
Allen, Maury. Mr. October: The Reggie Jackson Story. New York: Times Books, 1981.
Halter, Jon C. Reggie Jackson: All Star in Right. New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1975.
Jackson, Reggie. Reggie Jackson's Scrapbook. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978.
Jackson, Reggie, with Mike Lupica. Reggie: The Autobiography. New York: Villard Books, 1984.
Libby, Bill. The Reggie Jackson Story. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1975.
"Reggie Jackson." Great Athletes, volume 4. Hackensack, N.J.: Salem Press, Inc.
Boston Globe (January 6, 1993): 1.
Boston Globe (January 10, 1993): 54.
Boston Globe (August 2, 1993): 37.
Deford, Frank. "Behind the Fence." Sports Illustrated (July 27, 1981): 50-64.
Dolson, Frank. "With flair for showmanship, Reggie Jackson was ahead of his time." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (July 31, 1993).
Esquire (June 1993): 69-71.
Garcia, Julian. "Reggie finds his place at Monument Park." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (July 6, 2002).
"How the Franchise Went West." Time (June 27, 1977): 49.
Jet (January 25, 1993): 45.
Jet (May 1993): 47.
Jet (August 16, 1993): 51.
Jet (September 6, 1993); 51.
Kallmann, Dave. "Reggie Jackson becomes NASCAR team owner," Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (February 28, 2002).
Los Angeles Times (January 12, 1993; August 1, 1993; August 2, 1993; March 5, 1995).
Murray, Chass. "Compensation System Showing Flaws." Sporting News (February 6, 1984).
Newhan, Ross. "Baseball: Hall of Famer Jackson has met with Orange County billionaires trying to buy team from Disney." Los Angeles Times (September 24, 1999): 6.
New York (April 19, 1993): 158-160.
New Yorker (August 2, 1993): 40-41.
New York Times (July 4, 1979): 50-64.
Sports Illustrated (August 2, 1993): 58-64.
Ward, Robert. "Reggie Jackson in No-Man's Land." Sport (June, 1977): 89-96.
"Reggie Jackson." http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (November 10, 2002).
"Reggie Jackson." http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ (November 10, 2002).
Sketch by Eric Lagergren
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.
- Born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania on May 18
- Named College Player of the Year and drafted by Oakland Athletics
- Hits first major league home run on September 17
- Marries Juanita Campos
- Goes on injured list while Oakland wins World Series; divorces
- Plays in first World Series and wins MVP Award
- Helps Oakland win third straight world championship
- Hits three home runs in World Series game; wins championship and MVP with New York Yankees
- Helps New York win second straight world championship
- Leaves New York for California Angels
- Returns to Oakland Athletics for last season of baseball career
- Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame
- 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 Ange-les 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.
Kahn, Roger. October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and the Yankees' Miraculous Finish in 1978. New York: Harcourt Books, Inc., 2003.
Light, Jonathan Fraser. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 1997.
Porter, David L., ed. African American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995.
Reichler, Joseph L., ed. The Baseball Encyclopedia. 7th ed. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1988.
Reynolds, Victoria. "Reggie Jackson." In Great Athletes. Vol. 4. Eds. Dawn P. Dawson et al. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002.
Strumolo, Amy Loerch. "Reggie Jackson." In Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 15. Ed. Shirelle Phelps. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale Group, 1997.
Reggie Jackson Web Site. http://www.reggiejackson.com (Accessed 1 April 2006).
Fletcher F. Moon
Born: May 18, 1946
African American baseball player
Baseball great Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993. Jackson's hard-hitting, fast-footed style helped him lead two teams to five World Championships in only seven years. Jackson made headlines with his self-centered remarks, hot temper, and colorful manner.
Reginald Martinez Jackson was born on May 18, 1946, in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, to Martinez and Clara Jackson. Jackson was one of six children of African American and Spanish descent. When his parents divorced, young Jackson moved with two of his siblings to live with his father in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Although his father always provided food for the family, Jackson recalls that they often "felt poverty." His father, a tailor and a dry cleaner, was once a semi-pro baseball player in the Negro leagues, and he was largely responsible for inspiring and encouraging his talented son to pursue a career in baseball.
Education and a career with the Athletics
Jackson was an all-star athlete in track, on the football team, in basketball, and in baseball by the time he entered his senior year at Cheltenham High School. Reggie accepted a scholarship from Arizona State University. In his sophomore year he was chosen to the All-American first team in baseball. His performance caught the attention of Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, who offered Jackson a $95,000 bonus. He left college after his sophomore year and entered the world of professional baseball.
In 1968 Jackson moved with the Athletics to their new home in Oakland, California. In his first full season in the majors he hit 29 home runs and drove in another 74 runs. But he also made a dozen outfield errors and struck out a near record-breaking 171 times. The following season, in 1969, he again held a record number of strikeouts with 142, but he hit a fantastic 47 home runs and led the American League in scoring with 123 runs.
Trouble at home and on the field
After the end of that season Jackson's performance declined. The increasing pressures of trying to keep up with his own home-run pace, as well as troubles in his marriage to wife Jenni, contributed to his temporary decline. Further, he failed to bargain successfully with Finley for a high increase in pay. His average and his homers dropped and his continued poor performance caused him to be benched for a portion of that season.
In the winter of 1970 and 1971 Jackson went to Santurce, Puerto Rico, to work with Frank Robinson. Robinson, a veteran player-manager, helped Jackson to improve his play. Robinson's tutoring helped him to work on his aggressive playing style while keeping his temper under control.
Jackson bounces back
The following season Jackson bounced back. He helped lead the Athletics to the American League Western Division title in 1971 with 32 home runs. In 1972 the Athletics won the title again. In the playoffs the Athletics beat the Detroit Tigers, with Jackson sliding into home plate to score the winning run in the final game. But he tore a muscle in one of his legs, which forced him to sit out of the World Series. Jackson watched as the Athletics defeated the Cincinnati Reds.
Voted the American League's Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1973, Jackson batted .293 and led the league with 32 home runs. That year the team went on to win the World Series over the New York Mets. Leading the league in runs, he was chosen MVP in the World Series.
Leaves the Oakland Athletics
The Athletics won the World Series in 1974, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Jackson hitting 29 homers for the season. Finally, in 1975, after winning the American League Western Division title, Jackson ended his nine-year career with the Athletics. Finley traded Jackson to the Baltimore Orioles and he stayed with them for one season.
In 1977 Jackson signed a five-year contract as a free agent with the New York Yankees for $300,000 a year. Once again he led his team to a World Series championship. The night of October 18, 1977, was one of Jackson's greatest triumphs. In that game, he became only the second player in history to hit three home runs in one game. In the entire series, he hit five home runs, a World Series record. Jackson was named MVP of the World Series that fall. He followed that spectacular season with a second World Series win against the Dodgers in 1978. His walloping World Series hitting earned him the title "Mr. October," as he could always be counted on to pull his team to victory in the Fall Classic.
The Yankees won the American League pennant in 1981. Jackson hit his tenth and final World Series home run that year. The California Angels signed Jackson in 1982, and he reached the 500-homer mark in 1984. Jackson returned to the Athletics in 1987 and retired at the end of the season. He placed sixth on the all-time major league career home run list, with 563 home runs during his twenty-one-year baseball career.
After retiring Jackson worked briefly as a sports broadcaster for the Angels before moving on to coach for the Athletics. He then took a job with the Upper Deck Company, handling sales of trading cards and sports collectibles. On August 1, 1993, Reggie Jackson became the 216th inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His achievements run to both extremes: ten World Series home runs; five World Championships; eleven American League Championships with three different teams; along with holding the major league record for lifetime strikeouts at 2,597.
The Yankees retired Jackson's number "44" baseball uniform. During the summer of 1993, Jackson returned to the Yankees as a special assistant and advisor to the general partners. Jackson continued his work in California for the trading card company, and he was made director of new business at a California-based computer company for which he was already a spokesman. He is also an avid car collector and runs a charity called the Mr. October Foundation for Kids. He has one daughter, Kimberly.
For More Information
Allen, Maury. Mr. October: The Reggie Jackson Story. New York: Times Books, 1981.
Jackson, Reggie. Reggie: The Autobiography. New York: Villard Books, 1984.
Libby, Bill. The Reggie Jackson Story. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1979.
Macht, Norman L. Reggie Jackson. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.