(This is Part 11 of a 19 Chapter Series on how baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net.)
Reggie Jackson was left-handed, which I always thought was cool because I wasn’t! ALL of my Pop’s favorite guys were left-handed, so I assume mine became that way too. I just loved to watch Fred Lynn and George Brett swing the bat, kinda like he liked Ted Williams and Stan Musial.
C’mon, pick a switch hitter, any switch hitter? Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose — any of the great ones! And I bet you enjoy watching them bat left-handed more.
I dunno, one of life’s mysteries when you’re a kid.
Reggie wore those white shoes and had those big 70′s fab shades and that ‘fro, and cool poses on his baseball cards (go ahead and look at those early 70′s Topps Reggie cards and just tell me that he doesn’t look like a ballplayer). He took that long, majestic swing and he did it with ferociousness. And, when the game was on the line, when the light was shining the brightest, Reggie Jackson came up big every time. Again, and again, and again.
It wasn’t October if “Mr. October” wasn’t involved, even if it came at the expense of the Orioles. And it almost always did!
Reggie played in the postseason every year from 1971 to 1982, except for two seasons and both of them were the Orioles’ fault. He missed the playoffs in 1976 because he WAS an Oriole and he missed in 1979 because he WASN’T. And that was WAY before the wildcard crap.
From the time I was 5 until I was 10 (and I assure you that baseball was the ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE during those years), he was in the World Series four out of six years. He WAS the World Series in many ways.
When I played in the Berkshire Little League, I wanted No. 9 or No. 44, just like Ahmed wanted to pay tribute to Hank Aaron in the “Bad News Bears,” I wanted to pay tribute to Reggie — worship at his temple.
I thought his number would rub off on me and I could be the Venezuelan right-handed, slow and white Reggie Jackson of my neighborhood. Maybe I’d start winning the big one instead of striking out like I did against Rich Pfaff at Eastwood!
And, once I found out that he had a Baltimore connection through Johnny’s and local baseball, I was convinced Reggie was the real-life baseball Superman.
You wanted to hate, but you just couldn’t! He was, well, in a word: GREAT, at least with the bat!
So, I liked him and wanted to be him, even if I never really became a “fan” of his in the way of collecting his baseball cards or his posters or whatever.
And my Pop just thought I was a communist for even considering buying a “Reggie” candy bar. But I did.
Lemme bust up my little fantasy meets reality story with one tale of childhood vs. adulthood reality.
I met Reggie Jackson one time. I’ve been in his presence many, especially at Yankee Stadium because they’ve been good over the last decade and he hangs around.
I was in the 33rd Street press box in 1986 and the Angels were in town (no doubt, a younger-and-more slender and handsome Peter Schmuck was within 20 feet of me) and Reggie was a late-inning entry into a tight ballgame and was facing former Angel Don Aase, who was brought in a year earlier as one of three saviors (along with Lee Lacy and Fred Lynn) who were signed to revitalize that 1983 magic.
On the whole, those seasons were the setup for 1988′s 0-21 meltdown for the Birds, but on this day Aase had his good stuff.
He had runners on, a tight situation and a classic Reggie at-bat and potential game-altering home run could be on tap. So the old girl on 33rd was buzzing on a Saturday afternoon because the game was also nationally televised on NBC. Tony Kubek and those cats were around the ballpark.
Aase threw his heat and got Reggie Jackson to pop out to shallow center on a high fastball.
In the press box that day Ted Patterson, another guy I idolized in the Baltimore media while growing up, was seated next to me and I was soaking up his knowledge