Given the illustrious history of the New York Yankees, you have to do something pretty special to become a legend. And whether you consider him an Oakland A or a true Yankee, Reggie Jackson certainly has a strong place in New York sporting lore.
42 years ago, Jackson became “Mr. October,” cementing his status as a Yankees hero. With the MLB postseason currently in full swing, let’s take a look back at the iconic night that earned him a place in history.
Reggie Jackson’s time with the A’s
Reggie Jackson made his debut with the Kansas City Athletics during a doubleheader 1967. He immediately announced himself as a major league player by belting a triple in the evening game. The A’s moved to California during the following season, but the change of scenery didn’t slow Jackson down; he belted 29 home runs in 1968 and 47 in 1969.
By the time Reggie made his playoff debut in 1971, he had established himself as an elite hitter. He helped the A’s claim the American League West title in 1971; the club would win the World Series in the following season, but Jackson tore his hamstring during the ALCS. Jackson would get plenty of chances to shine in the World Series, though, as the A’s would return, and win again, in 1973 and 1974. Reggie was named the MVP of the former series, sealing his status as a postseason performer.
Moving to the New York Yankees
Jackson was due to become a free agent in 1976, but the A’s weren’t prepared to offer him an increased salary. They decided to cut their losses and traded the outfielder to the Baltimore Orioles. He would spend one season there before signing with the New York Yankees.
Jackson’s first season in pinstripes was a challenge, due to his infamous rivalry with manager Billy Martin. The two even got into a physical altercation in the dugout during a game in Fenway Park; owner George Steinbrenner intervened, forcing Martin to bat Jackson in the clean-up spot, but tensions remained.
Jackson’s production improved once he started batting fourth, and the Yankees made a run to the postseason. They reached the 1977 World Series, where Reggie would pick up his famous nickname.
Becoming Mr. October
During the World Series, reporters asked Yankees captain Thurman Munson about the championship. He quipped that they should go ask “Mr. October,” since Jackson had previously had success in the Fall Classic. Reggie would make sure that the nickname stuck.
On October 18, the Yankees and Dodgers met in Game Six of the World Series; New York could clinch the title with a win. During batting practice, Jackson pounded countless home runs into the stands. Once the game began, he didn’t let up.
Jackson walked in his first plate appearance but took matters into his own hands after that. In the fourth inning, he belted the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers. Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Murray was covering the game and wrote, “that would have crossed state lines and gone through the side of a battleship on its way to the seats.” But Jackson wasn’t done.
The next time he came up to the plate, he swung at the first pitch and launched another homer into the seats. In the eighth inning, the feat repeated itself; after walking, Reggie hit three home runs with three swings of the bat. Behind that offensive outburst, the New York Yankees were World Series champions.
You can debate a lot of things about Reggie Jackson, but one thing is undeniable: he knew how to step up in the biggest October moments.