MLB recently announced that the most valuable player award for the World Series would be named the Willie Mays Award.
It’s a nice gesture because Mays was a great baseball player, one of the ten greatest of all time. However, when it comes to the World Series, nobody did it better than Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. For that reason I will tell you why this award should have been called the “Mr. October Award”! You are talking about a guy (Reggie) that played in six World Series, won five world championships and was the most valuable player in two. You are also talking about a player who saw three pitches in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series and hit three home runs.
I remember after he hit the first homer, I suggested that he take a curtain call and he said no. After he hit the second homer I asked him again to take a curtain call and again he refused for whatever the reason. I said to him,” If you hit a third you will take one then.” and Reggie said ‘Man your crazy but I will.’” Wouldn’t you know it but on the first pitch from Charlie Hough, he would hit a knuckleball deep into the black in center field. When he got into the dugout as he started to sit down I went to his ear and said, “You promised the fans a curtain call.” And then I started to push him out of the dugout–I must add I didn’t have to push hard. That game would become one of the greatest in Yankees history.
One of the biggest songs of that year (1977) was Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” If you were a television sports producer you couldn’t help but use that song in any report dealing with Reggie. The words to that song symbolized the greatness of what Reggie Jackson accomplished so much so that forty years later I can honestly say that no one has had a better World Series since.
Ninteen Seventy-Seven was the Summer of Sam, a crazed killer (The Son of Sam as he was known) walked the streets of New York and shot and killed over a dozen innocent young lady’s and you never knew when he would strike again. That same year on August 16, Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, died. New York City was rocking to Saturday Night Fever and made a mega star out of John Travolta and the city streets were stinking big time because of a garbage strike. In the Bronx, graffiti was all over the place, walls subways etcetera.
Whatever could happen in the city that year did. Between the tempers in the Yankee clubhouse and the fires all over the Borough, the Bronx was literally “burning.”
On October 18, during the World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees, Reggie Jackson arguably put on the greatest show in World Series history and brought a team and a city together.
I will also never forget that after that game, Reggie and Billy Martin sat in the manager’s office together with their arms around each other and that actually meant a lot to me because Billy always treated me like a son and Reggie has always been a big brother to me however I knew those emotions wouldn’t last, but that’s a story for another day.
One month after Reggie had hit the three home runs in Game 6 f the 1977 World Series, Reggie and I went jogging in Central Park.
It was a beautiful brisk day and at this time I could still run really well. Reggie liked running with me because I would make him run harder, I always wanted to beat Mr. October but he was deceptively fast. Three quarters of the way to the west side of the park, I noticed two very familiar figures. It was John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
John Lennon noticed Reggie before Reggie noticed Lennon. I screamed to Reggie, “Stop Jack! It’s John Lennon.” I was in shock because I had always been a giant Beatle fan. Reggie and Lennon shook hands and then Lennon introduced Yoko Ono to Reggie.
Lennon said to Reggie “I don’t know your sport, but I do know that right now you’re bigger than the five Jackson’s put together, referring to Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five.” Reggie laughed at that and I guess you could say that John scored big points with that comment. Lennon told Reggie how much he loved New York and Reggie replied about how intense and crazy the city could be. Yoko never really said much and I was just mesmerized watching two entertainment gods of the era enjoying one another. Years later, I asked Reggie if he ever thought about that time that we met John Lennon and reminded him of what Lennon said that day. Reggie smiled. (You have to remember that Reggie had met all of the greats from the last six decades, stars from film, television, music and sports. We are talking about greats like Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, Pele, you name it. I believe that he even met Elvis, but I’m not sure.) Today, Reggie understands the magnitude of John Lennon and what Lennon meant to the world and he must think to himself, “That’s pretty neat.” That’s what Reggie’s smile told me.
That wonderful, crazy 1977 season also brought two people who started out on opposite sides of the clubhouse, together to tell each other how much they appreciated each other. Those two guys were Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson. It was one of the most beautiful moments that I had witnessed in baseball because of the sincerity in their eyes. From that moment on, they never had a cross word with each other and Thurman and Reggie did become true friends. (I remember that Reggie actually flew with Thurman a couple of times and one day Reggie gave Thurman a check for gas but Thurman never cashed the check!)
I was a kid who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time and I will forever be grateful for the kindness and sincerity of these special people in my life.Today is the fortieth anniversary of George Steinbrenner’s first World Championship and for me the greatest performance in a World Series game by a player and on this day Thurman Munson would give Reggie Jackson the greatest nickname in sports, MR OCTOBER!