Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Reggie & Byron, The Greatest of their time. From Yankee Stadium to Carnegie Hall

How lucky am I? I ask myself that question at least 44 times a day. I laugh to myself because the 44 represents the uniform number of arguably the greatest baseball player of the 1970s Reggie Jackson.

This human dynamo definitely put on the single most impressive performance in World Series history and for someone that was not known for always being humble, that night I literally had to force him out of the dugout so that he would take a curtain call. Reggie was also the American Leagues Most Valuable Player in 1973 and twice won the World Series Most Valuable Player award. Sports Illustrated once gave Reggie the title … Super Duper Star! He did television specials with the biggest stars of the day like Bob Hope and appeared on that era’s biggest television show… The Love Boat. His schedule got so crazy in one winter that he had to reject hosting Saturday Night Live. He even turned down a movie that he would of played a secret agent. I was upset about that one because since I appeared on all of his commercials at that time I figured he would of gotten me a small role in that film. That script just sat on his desk for months. I don’t know if he ever really looked at it.

How big was Reggie Jackson in the 70s? Well, let me put it this way… One day while we were jogging in Central Park we saw a very familiar couple. It was John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John actually pointed at Reggie. Naturally, when I said Reggie it’s John Lennon we both stopped. They exchanged pleasantries. John just like the whole world at that time recognized Reggie immediately because Reggie was on the cover of all reading material all around the world. That’s something that Lennon knew all too well being maybe the most famous Beatles. It was a beautiful moment and even though I never said a word with the exception of hello and Goodbye, I was just happy and blessed to of been there. By the way, let’s not forget the Reggie Bar! Not since Babe Ruth had a candy bar been named after a great athlete.

For me, the true highlight of the Reggiemania era was when one day Reggie told me to dress up a little better than usual because we were going to Carnegie Hall the next day.

Reggie loved music and he loved most types however in looking through his album collection I didn’t see anything that would warrant a visit to Carnegie Hall, but what do I know? Well, the next day I found myself at the most famous place that you can go to to see and hear the greatest in the World of Classical music and of course opera. The way Yankee Stadium had Babe Ruth and at this time Reggie, Carnegie Hall had The great Caruso and the Worlds greatest Classical pianist Byron Janis.

Byron had performed for kings and Queens all around the World and naturally for Presidents in America. Every Janis show had always been a sellout. To see these two immortals of their worlds get together was an incredible thing. I always asked myself how did God put me in these situations to be able to witness these incredible events.

Byron I would find out was a giant baseball fan and was extremely excited about having Reggie there. To see Reggie at one point sit and share the piano with the great Byron Janis was truly unbelievable. To see the incredible respect and admiration that these two giants had for each other was absolutely beautiful. 45 years later I am blessed to say that I am still friends with Reggie Jackson.

Oh by the way today I am very close to the great Byron Janis. I love this man and his wife Maria Cooper Janis with a passion. Maria is truly one of the sweetest and most beautiful woman that I have ever met. When I first met Byron I had no idea that he was married to the daughter of one the greatest Movie stars of all time, Academy Award winner Gary Cooper who just happened to be my all-time favorite actor because of his portrayal of The great Yankee Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees and as Will Kane in High Noon.

To have these memories and of shared them with these great people is such a blessing. Thanks, Mr. October for letting me take the ride on your Magical Mystery Tour.

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