Q&A Feature with Reggie Jackson — in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine
October 1, 2017 — After interviewing several key members of the 1977 Yankees team for Q&A pieces that have run all season in Yankees Magazine, I closed the series of interviews by sitting down with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
In many ways, Jackson was the biggest story in town that season. His arrival in the Big Apple prior to the 1977 season brought tremendous excitement to the Yankees. Jackson also became a controversial figure, and ultimately, he become a pinstriped hero, hitting three home runs in the decisive game of the World Series.
As I interviewed other players from that team, the conversations often became focused on Jackson. Finally speaking to Mr. October and publishing his words — appropriately in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine — tied things together well.
My conversation with Jackson at Yankee Stadium began when I asked him about why he signed a free agent contact with the Yankees in November of 1976.
“It was the city, the fans and the owner,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been a baseball fan, and the Yankees and their winning tradition — the great history from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to DiMaggio, Mickey, Yogi and Elston Howard through Thurman Munson — made me admire the pinstripes for a long period of time. I was courted pretty well and sought after by George Steinbrenner and a couple of his players. Thurman was really the guy who was an important part of me going there. The excitement of the city when I went for a visit was impressive.”
I then asked Jackson to discuss the group of guys on the team when he got to spring training.
“It was different and socially awkward,” he said. “It was a different time in those days. It’s not really something that I would want to expand on for an article like this. But it was just clique-ish and awkward. I’ll just leave it at that.”
A few minutes later, Jackson expanded on how he felt as things calmed down toward the end of the regular season.
“I don’t know if I ever really had an enjoyable day that season,” Jackson said. “The pressure to prove the contract, dealing with Billy Martin and having an article written about me by Robert Ward that got turned around to say the least was tough. That story really drove a wedge in between me and the team. To this day, I remember some of the writers who hated me. The social inequities and racism at the time was very different to deal with. It was 40 years ago and when you talk about all of that, you just remember a lot of the difficult, awkward negativity that was there. I like to focus my thoughts on winning that championship and the home runs.”
When our conversation turned to Jackson’s epic Game 6 performance in the 1977 Fall Classic, he described the day he made history.
“It was an ordinary day,” he said. “I had a big breakfast over at Nectar Café on 79th Street and Madison Avenue, where I ate all the time. I had three eggs over easy with some potatoes, bacon and sausage and toast and a big glass of milk. Then, I went back there for some lunch, and I headed over to the ballpark at around 2 o’clock. I remember driving up through Harlem. I represented Puma shoes, and I used to hand out 20 or 30 pairs of those Pumas to the kids a couple of Saturdays each month on the way to Yankee Stadium. That’s what I did that day. As far as how I felt when I was getting ready for the game, I knew what it felt like to play well down the stretch and be comfortable and calm when it mattered most because I had done well in the World Series games I played in with Oakland. I felt like I could really dominate that game, and that’s how things worked out.”
Be sure to read my entire conversation with Mr. October in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine, on sale tomorrow, October 2.
— Alfred Santasiere III