Growing up I spent summer vacations visiting with my grandparents and invariably my grandfather and I would end up with the television tuned to a baseball game. There was a long running, good natured debate about who the best player in the game was at the time. Pap was a fan of “Charlie Hustle” Pete Rose; while gravitated toward Reggie Jackson, first with the multiple World Series champion Oakland A’s and later with the Bronx Bombers, The New York Yankees.
I vividly remember watching an All Star game in Detroit when Jackson slammed a monster home run off a lighting tower transformer and who could forget the 1977 World Series three home run game. It was Jackson’s on field exploits that won me over. My judgment was based on the content of his ability, not the color of skin.
That is way I was so disappointed that so much of Jackson’s new autobiography, Becoming Mr. October is focused on his claims that pervasive racism impacted him throughout his career to the point that he feels he never earned the credit or accolades he felt he deserved. That’s a bit hard to reconcile for a man who was at the time the highest paid player in major league baseball, was a regular member of All Star teams and was a World Series MVP.
Jackson came to the major leagues in an era where we as a nation where going through the civil rights movement, so race certainly played a role in his career path, but certainly wasn’t shorted in accolades or financial remuneration. As to his claims about Yankee team mates being less than welcoming, I think like superstars of any era, Jackson was not short on high opinion of himself; egos in sports…who woulda thunk it?!
Jackson does offer some interesting insights into his fire and gasoline relationship with Billy Martin, the personality challenged, egomaniac, Yankee skipper. The level of bitterness that Jackson carries after all these years is striking; it’s a weight he carries that negatively impacts his post baseball life.Jackson remains one of the greatest to ever play the game and nothing can ever take that away from him and he should revel in that fact.