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”.
MOTOR RACING July 20, 2008 Lewis Hamilton wins the German Grand Prix driving for McLaren-Mercedes. The victory was Hamilton’s second consecutive triumph after taking the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At season’s end, the 23-year old would become the then youngest and only black racer in F1 history to win a championship title.
GOLF July 17, 1998 Mark O’Meara shoots a 280 to win the 127th British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. In a playoff against fellow American Brian Watts, O’Meara claimed his second major championship of the year after topping the Masters three months earlier. Those victories were the only major titles of his 34 professional wins.
HOCKEY July 16, 1988 In a lavish event dubbed by the Canadian press as the “Royal Wedding”, Wayne Gretsky weds actress Janet Jones; the couple would have 5 children. After 20 seasons in professional hockey, Gretsky wrapped up his career in 1999 playing for 4 teams and producing more goals and assists than any other player in NHL history.
BASEBALL July 17, 1978 Yankee Manager Billy Martin and slugger Reggie Jackson clash at a Royals game after Jackson tried to bunt when he was told to hit away, causing Martin to suspend him. A week later, Martin himself would resign following 3 tumultuous years with the NY club, but the troubled and controversial manager would eventually return.