I went back and re-read Robert Ward’s infamous “Reggie Jackson in No-Man’s Land” article last night (it is in Glenn Stout’s collection of Yankee writing, “Top of the Heap”). Man, it’s still funny. They sure don’t make ’em like Jackson–or Billy the Kid, for that matter–anymore. Ward spoke with Jackson during the slugger’s first spring training with the Yankees, but the article didn’t appear until June (in Sport magazine), by which time tensions had eased considerably between Jackson and Thurman Munson. When the piece came out, the feud was fired up all over again. It would continue throughout the 1977 season, ending of course when Jackson hit four home runs on four consecutive pitches (with a base on balls inbetween) as the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Serious.
Anyhow, here are some of Reggie’s finest moments from the article:
“I’ve got problems other guys don’t have. I’ve go this big image that comes before me, and I’ve got to adjust to it. Or what it has been projected to be. That’s not ‘me’ really, but I’ve got to deal with it. Also, I used to be known as a black athlete, now I’m respected as a tremendoous intellect.
…You know…this team…it flows from me. I’ve got to keep it all going. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. It all comes back to me. Maybe I should say me and Munson…but really he doesn’t enter into it. He’s being so damned insecure about the whole thing. I’ve overheard him talking about me…I’ll hear him telling some other writer tha he wants it to be known that he’s the captain of the team, that he knows what’s best. Stuff like that. And when anybody knocks me, he’ll laugh real loud so that I can hear it…
You see, that is the way I am. I’m a leader, and I can’t lie down…but ‘leader’ isn’t the right word…it’s a matter of PRESENCE…Let me put it this way: No team I am on will ever be humilated the way the Yankees were by the Reds in the World Series! That’s why Munson can’t intimidate me. Nobody can. you can’t psyche me. You take me one-on-one in the pit, and I’ll whip you…It’s an attitude, really…It’s the way the manager looks at you when you come into the room…It’s the way the coaches and the batboy look at you…The way your name trickles through the crowd when you wait in the batter’s box…It’s all that…The way the Yankees were humilated by the Reds? You think that doesn’t bother Billy Martin. He’s no fool. He’s smart. Very smart. And he’s a winner. Munson’s tough, too. He is a winner, but there is just nobody who can do for a club what I can do…There is nobody who can put meat in the seats [fans in the stands] the way I can. That’s just the way it is…Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir bad.”
Catfish Hunter, who had played with Jackson in Oakland years before, told Ward, “The thing you have to understand about Reggie is that he wants everyone to love him.”
Alex Rodriguez is no Reggie Jackson, but I get the feeling that he wants everybody to love him too. I don’t think Rodriguez is capable to making any “straw that stirs the drink” comments, but I wouldn’t put it past him for his mouth (insecurities) to get him in trouble sooner or later.