Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mr. October (1977)

This is part 3 in the From Hank to Hideki series, chronicling the 40 most memorable sports moments of my lifetime.

Previous: The Revolutionary War (1977)

Reggie Jackson signed with the Yankees as a free agent in the off-season between 1976 and 1977. I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the controversy that followed him to New York, so I'll try to be brief.

Jackson had a huge ego. Was he even more of a lightning-rod for controversy than Alex Rodriguez? Maybe, but this was over 30 years ago, when these things were viewed a little differently. Reggie was also like Muhammed Ali, in that he was charismatic with his arrogance, so most people either loved him or hated him. Unfortunately, I don't think the same can be said for Rodriguez.

There was a time, however, that Jackson's teammates and his manager, Billy Martin, were in the camp that hated him, but this would all become a moot point following Game Six of the 1977 World Series. It's worth noting here, of course, that being hated by Martin was not a difficult feat to accomplish.

Reggie alienated his teammates by referring to himself as "the straw that stirs the drink," in an interview with a New York reporter. Whether or not this statement was surrounded by somewhat derogatory comments about Yankees captain Thurman Munson, or that it was completely taken out of context, were subject to debate. Regardless, in Game Six of the 1977 World Series, the man who had a candy bar named after him lived up to and exceeded all expectations.

Reggie bar image courtesy of JasonLiebig's photostream

Sarcastically nicknamed "Mr. October" by none other than Munson himself, Jackson entered Game Six already enjoying a fine series—6-for-17 (.353), 2 HR, 3 RBI and 6 runs scored—and the Yankees led the Dodgers three-games-to-two. But, on the night of October 18, 1977, he would legitimately earn the moniker that he is still known for today.

After walking and scoring on Chris Chambliss's 2nd inning home run, he would step to the plate in the bottom of the 4th with his team trailing 3-2. With Munson on first and nobody out, Jackson lined Dodgers starter Burt Hooton's first pitch into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.

Reggie batted again in the 5th, this time facing Elias Sosa with Willie Randolph on base and the Yankees ahead 5-3. One pitch, one swing, one shot launched into deep right field. 7-3, Yanks.

Reggie completed the hat trick with a monster solo shot off of Charlie Hough, into the abyss of the black batter's background in center field, as the stadium throng chanted "Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!!!" and tossed his namesake candy bars on the field. Having homered on three consecutive pitches by three different pitchers, Reggie Jackson completed the greatest single game performance by a hitter in World Series history.

As I said in my previous post, I was only 10 years old at the time. As a result, I wasn't allowed to stay up late enough to witness this. So, I actually didn't see this game live, but I woke up the following morning to a handwritten note card which read, "Yankees 8, Dodgers 4. Reggie Jackson: 3 HR." It would be a thing of beauty if I still possessed this note that my dad left on my bedroom dresser, but I don't. Regardless, I can still picture it in my head, and it's still one of my most special early sports memories.

Next: The Tear-Stained Quarter (1978)

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