Reggie Jackson back where he began major league odyssey
Don't tell baseball's flamboyant elder statesman that he can't go home again. Rules, philosophies, and even novelist Thomas Wolfe's famous line aren't enough to keep Reggie Jackson from the Bay Area. Nineteen years after Jackson last played for the Oakland A's, he's back performing in the city where he has lived for the last two decades, only a few miles from the warehouse where 57 of his classic cars (at last count) are garaged.Skip to next paragraph
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Actually Reggie, now a designated hitter, broke into the majors in 1967 with the Kansas City A's, playing in 35 late-season games before owner Charlie Finley moved the franchise to Oakland.
Whether you buy the many moods and multi-personalities of Jackson, his presence sells tickets, his words are quoted faster than Reagan's, and he's never seen a pop-up question he couldn't catch with his mouth. He also has 549 homers and needs just 24 more to overtake Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew in fifth place on baseball's all-time list.
As long as the 40-year-old Jackson thinks he has a chance of passing Killebrew, he'll play, this season and beyond if that's what it takes.
Last year he had 18 home runs with the California Angels, considerably below his career high of 41 that he hit with the 1980 New York Yankees. Of course now he can take aim at an invitingly close right-field fence, a mere 330 feet away in Oakland, versus 370 at Anaheim Stadium.
Several years ago, during a celebrity golf tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., I was having breakfast with Joe DiMaggio when somebody at the table mentioned Reggie to the Yankee Clipper.
``Sure Jackson is good,'' DiMaggio said. ``But he's like too many of today's hitters, who swing from the heels even when the pitcher has them in the hole, and I can't understand it. Actually they overswing.
``Jackson isn't content to cut down on his swing and hit the ball 10 rows up in the stands,'' Joe continued. ``He wants to drive it 30 rows up, and occasionally he will succeed. But the price he's paying in strikeouts isn't worth it.''
Recently Reggie told The Sporting News that he is playing this season because he still thinks that he can do a job, not because he is trying to catch Killebrew. Maybe, but I'd like to have a dollar for every major league player who disagrees with that statement.
Jackson also said that it's important to him that he leave the game with a respectable finish.
``If I had left after last season, I wouldn't have felt complete,'' Reggie explained. ``Rod Carew certainly did enough during his 19 years in the game, but when he was released [in 1986] by the Angels, his statement was left without a summary.''
Jackson considers his signature to be the 18 home runs he has hit in post-season play, and his No. 1 achievement the three home runs, including the game-winner, he hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deciding game of the 1977 World Series. All three homers came on a first pitch. Elsewhere in the major leagues