"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Extra Value is What You Get

YES is broadcasting Game 6 of the 1978 World Serious tonight. I tuned in just in time to catch Reggie’s bomb of Bob Welch, a first pitch shot that served as revenge for Welch’s dramatic K of Jackson earlier in the series. Jackson admired the blast, though his posturing is tame by today’s standards, and then tipped his hat to the Dodger faithful after he crossed home plate. In a short, 1994 New Yorker tribute to Jackson called “Swingtime,” Roger Angell noted this home run as one of Jackson’s career highlights. Here’s more from the piece:

Coming up out of the dugout before his next at-bat in a big game, Reggie Jackson was always accompanied by an invisible entourage: he was the heavyweight champion headed down the aisle for another title defense. The batter’s box was his prize ring, and once he’d dug in there–with those gauntleted arms, the squashed-down helmet, the shades and the shoulders–all hearts beat faster. It really didn’t matter what came next–a pop-up or a ground ball, a single or a dinger, or one of those tunneling-to-Peru strikeouts that ended with his helmet askew, his massive legs twisted into taffy ropes, and the man lurching and staggering as he fought for balance down there in the center of our shouting–because what he gave us, game after game, throughout a twenty-one-year career, was full value.

…From first to last, he was excessive; he excelled at excess…His ego, like his swing, took your breath away, but the dazzled, infuriated beat writers and columnists had to concede that it probably arose from the same deeply hidden, unforgiving self-doubt that whipped him to such baseball hieghts, mostly in the hard late going.

I think Angell gets to the heart of Jackson’s gift–no matter what he did when he was at-bat, he always gave us full value. There aren’t many athletes you can say that about.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver