Reggie Jackson: All Star Games, fibs & fleas
Posted by athomeatfenway on December 13, 2010
Reggie Jackson, sometimes accused of lying or exaggeration in his playing days, was asked on MLB TV recently how he felt about giving up vacation time to play in the All Star Game back in the day.
To paraphrase, Reggie replied that he usually lit out of the ASG right after its conclusion because players didn’t have their own private
planes back then, and, they had to scramble back to their team.
He further said that in his “14 or 15” AS games, he usually played 9 innings, implying that All Star Games were more demanding when he played.
I don’t know why that sounded like B.S.. Maybe it was tone. Maybe it was a memory of Billy Martin telling the Press that (in reference to Steinbrenner & Reggie), “One’s convicted, the other is a born liar.
Maybe that was it.
But it did sound like B.S.. So I checked it out.
Reggie was selected for 14 All Star Games. He started in 10 of those games. He started in 6 of his first 7 between 1969 & 1977. He started in 4 out of his last 5 ending in 1984.
(That he was an ALL Star starter at both ends of his career is a testament to his home run power and personal charisma. And Reggie would agree with that. After all, when a handsome, ripped Jose Canseco shocked the world with titanic moon shots in 1986, Reggie told the media that the person Jose most reminded him of was, well……himself.)
Here’s the year-by-year break down of the Jackson ASG selections:
1969: Started & played 5 innings. 1971: Pinch hit for Vida Blue with a HR off Dock Ellis. 1972: Started & played 10 innings. 1973: Started & played 8 innings. 1974: Started & played 9 innings. 1975: Started and played 6 innings. 1977: Started and played 4 innings. 1978: selected, but did not play. 1979: Played 3.5 innings. 1980: Started and played 4.5 innings. 1981: Started and played 3.5 innings. 1982: Started and played 4.5 innings. 1983: selected but did not play.
1984: Reggie started and played 3.5 innings in his final ASG.
There is a heroic dimension to this story that must be appreciated.
As he came out of these games, he was replaced by marginal men like George Hendricks, and Hall of Famers like Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield.
In All Star appearances that spanned 3 decades, he was on the field with Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente & Ernie Banks as well as Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Darryl Strawberry.
His long sailing All Star ship was steered by Managers from Mayo Smith to Harvey Kuenn to Joe Altobelli.
It’s a stellar run.
Still, he did exaggerate some in that TV interview when he suggested he was usually on the field for 9 innings. Out of 14 ASG’s, he played in 9 in which he appeared in 4.5 innings or less, including 2 in which he only sat on the bench.
But what’s a little self-embellishment among friends ?
As much as I look skeptically at Reggie’s current “devotion” to the pinstripes, as much as I suspect he’s always placed himself way above any team or colleague, I can’t help but like Reggie Jackson.
The record also shows that Billy Martin liked Reggie when he wasn’t driving him crazy.
So what lying was Billy referring to any way ?
I couldn’t find an answer easily by googling, but I did dip into three vintage Bomber books and instantly whiffed the ego driven battle that drove Martin to make that comment.
In Sparky Lyle’s 1979 book, The Bronx Zoo, he wrote, “Reggie is now saying that Billy makes up excuses for not playing him, which I can’t understand. Reggie once went up to Billy and said, ‘I don’t want to play because so-and-so is pitching.’. Then after the game George wanted to know why he didn’t play. Reggie turned around and said, ‘Beats me.’”
That type of Reggie story is not a unique.
In Billy Martin’s 1987 book, Billy Ball, he wrote that Reggie defied him right before the “liar/convict” fiasco. Martin suspended Jackson for his defiance. Upon returning from the suspension, says Martin, Reggie called a press conference and explained that he had done nothing wrong to deserve the suspension. The public charade by Reggie made Martin boil. Martin was soon further enraged when Coach Dick Howser told him that Reggie had just lied to Steinbrenner about spending his banishment working out.
Martin then lost it.
In Jackson’s 1984 book, Reggie, he retells the banishment story and the ensuing liar/convict episode without any mention of speaking to the media upon returning. He said he was crushed, that he no longer wanted to play, that he was defeated, that he intending to apologize to his team mates (and not Billy) but circumstances prevented him from doing so. He never mentions that he played innocent with the press. He wrote that he just reported, stayed mum, & next thing you know Cedric Tallis was telling him that Billy had uttered the unutterable, and the cleaver was falling.
It sounds like Reggie was an All Star at playing games in the clubhouse as much as he was on the field.
But there is no outrage here.
Who am I to judge a man who hit 563 HR’s before steroids entered the game ?
Big players have big egos.
Big egos bring blind spots.
In time, and with the perspective of age, an All Star perhaps bends the truth a little whereas he broke it cleanly as a younger man.
It doesn’t matter to me. He’s still the young muscle man who bashed an impossible dinger into the light tower at Tigers stadium four decades ago. That’s the Reggie I will always recall. Young, earnest, and as far as I knew, honest.
Every dog has a flea or two.
So if a fan chooses to ignore how Babe frequented whorehouses, and that Ted was a lousy family man, or that a young Rapid Robert spoke against rookie Jackie Robinson, well I won’t complain.
I’m getting older, too.