Reggie Jackson- "Mr. October"
40 years ago this month, Reggie Jackson knocked 3 home runs in the 6th game of the World Series, catapulting the New York Yankees to their first title in 15 years.
In a kaleidoscopic summer that saw the Big Apple beset by the “Son of Sam” murders, a power blackout and a fiscal crisis, the Yankee slugger lit up the Bronx with all the hopes and dreams of a city in despair.
Jackson joined the pin-striped Yanks earlier that season after spending 9 years with the Oakland Athletics where he built his reputation as a post-season clutch batter.
A four-sport varsity athlete in high school, Jackson played both baseball and football at Arizona State. He joined the Kansas City Athletics following his sophomore year and was one of the young players that owner Charles Finley carried off to Oakland when the team moved in 1968.
An offensive producer with a restive disposition, Jackson ended up tangling with Finley over his salary in 1969 after manufacturing 47 home runs, 118 RBI, 123 runs and a .608 slugging percentage.
Jackson also verbally sparred with Dick Williams over his dictatorial management style and engaged in a brawl with fellow teammate Billy North during a game at Tiger Stadium in 1974.
Despite the overall dysfunctional relationships inside the A’s clubhouse, the team won three consecutive championships in 1972, ’73 and ’74. Jackson emerged from the 1973 season as the American League MVP and followed up with a World Series MVP in a hard-fought seven game series against the Mets. His two-run blast in the decisive match helped seal a final victory.
1976 saw Jackson traded to the Baltimore Orioles but a year later he would ink a 5-year, $2.96 million deal with the New York Yankees, becoming the highest paid player in Major League Baseball.
Owner George Steinbrenner bought the struggling Yankees from CBS in 1973 and a national title still proved to be elusive. After losing the Fall Classic to the Cincinnati Reds in 1976, the controversial baseball executive picked up the west coast superstar to bolster his roster.
Similar to his tenure in Oakland, Jackson’s five seasons in New York were fraught with ego clashes and team friction, punctuated by two back-to-back championships in 1977 and 1978.
During the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was Thurmon Munson, Yankees catcher and Captain, who gave Jackson his nickname “Mr. October” in an off-the-cuff remark to a reporter.
Jackson drove 5 home runs in that Series, three of which came in the game 6 clincher. The bat-swinging virtuoso became the first player to hit three balls out of the park in a single World Series game since Babe Ruth achieved the feat in 1928 (and 1926).
Facing the Dodgers again in 1978, Jackson ripped 3 homers, 2 of which came in the decisive match. The Yankees repeated their 4-2 score over their adversaries from the previous year.
After leaving the Yankees in 1981, Jackson joined the California Angels for a 5-year stint. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
By the end of Jackson’s career, his World Series batting average bested his regular season mark by 95 points- .357 to .262- cementing the clutch hitter's well-deserved nickname of “Mr. October”.
FOOTBALL April 26, 2008- Jake Long of the University of Michigan is first pick by the Miami Dolphins at the NFL draft. He signs a 5-year, $58 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league’s history. Long would stay with the Dolphins through 2012 and later join the Rams, Falcons and Vikings before retiring in 2017.
NASCAR April 26, 1998- Bobby Labonte wins the DieHard 500 as the only driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. It was the 2nd season victory for the Texas native who also took 1st place at the Primestar 500. At season start, Labonte had finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500, but landed 6th in final points standings at year-end.
GOLF April 24, 1988- Rosie Jones wins the LPGA USX Golf Classic in a playoff against Kathy Postlewait. It was the second of what would be 13 total victories at the LPGA. The California native attended Ohio State University and turned professional in 1982. Though never clinching a Major, she placed 2nd four times in her career.
TENNIS April 29, 1978- Tennis twin prodigies Mike and Bob Bryan are born in Camarillo, California. The duo won 16 Grand Slam Doubles championships between 2003-2014 and were named ATP team of the decade. They also took gold in Doubles Tennis at the 2012 Olympics. Both played at Stanford University, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.