New York Yankees fans were in a celebratory mood heading into the start of the 1978 season. And with good reason. The October before the club had won its first World Series title in 15 years led by star slugger Reggie Jackson. On that opening day in 1978, Jackson made one sweet swing that sent the Yankee Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
The 1977 New York Yankees
The 1976 season for the New York Yankees was a turnaround season. For the first time in 12 years, the team made the playoffs where they got swept in the World Series by the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the disappointing finish, that season showed the team was heading in the right direction and it served as a springboard for manager Billy Martin and the club heading into the 1977 season.
During that season, the Yankees had all the ingredients in place. Catfish Hunter, Ed Figueroa, and Ron Guidry would lead the pitching staff. The team was loaded on offense with Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Greg Nettles, and the recently-signed Reggie Jackson, who had played in Baltimore the previous season.
That year the Yankees got off to a slow start but turned the season around after the All-Star break and held off challenges from both Baltimore and Boston to win the AL East crown. Heading into the postseason, the Yankees appeared to be the team to beat.
Following a tough AL Championship Series where the Yankees battled back from a 1-2 deficit to defeat the Kansas City Royals in five games, the Yankees faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
After five games, the Yankees held a 3-2 advantage as the teams returned to Yankee Stadium for Game 6. In that contest, Reggie Jackson etched his name into Yankees’ history, blasting three home runs on consecutive at-bats. During his final home run, fans began loudly chanting the famous, “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!” The Yankees won the Series, Jackson won the MVP, and Mr. October was born.
The Reggie Candy Bar
While the Reggie candy bar would make its debut following the 1977 season, the concept originated several years earlier in an off-the-cuff remark by Jackson during an interview with famed sports announcer Howard Cosell. In that interview, Cosell asked Reggie, who was playing for Baltimore at the time, what would happen if he signed with the Yankees. Reggie responded, “If I played in New York, they’d name a candy bar after me.”
Following Jackson’s 1977 World Series MVP performance, the Yankees decided it was time to capitalize on their superstar hitter. The organization teamed up with the Standard Brands Company, which had already made a circular “bar” of peanuts dipped in caramel and covered in chocolate.
The plan was on opening day of the 1978 season; all fans entering the stadium would receive the never-before-seen Reggie candy bar. Everyone knew it would be a huge hit.
New York Yankees 1978 opening day
As fans entered the turnstiles for the first game of the 1978 season, each received a Reggie candy bar. The plan had worked to perfection. All the fans were happy to try out the new sweet treat honoring their World Series hero.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Yankees had two men on base when Jackson stepped up to face Chicago White Sox pitcher Wilbur Wood. Wood left a pitch out over the plate and Jackson blasted a three-run homer deep into the right-field seats.
Yankee Stadium erupted. Fans began chanting “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!” as they had done six months earlier. This time, however, the chants were accompanied by a barrage of red-wrapped Reggie bars raining down on the field in celebration. The game was delayed several minutes while the grounds crew made its away around the field picking up the unused candy bars.
Jackson initially misunderstood the gesture thinking the fans didn’t like the candy bar. The candy manufacturer officials, however, had no doubt about what they were witnessing. They couldn’t have been happier. It was a dream marketing scenario as it was played on newscasts across the country later that night.
That season the Yankees went on to win the World Series for a second consecutive season. The candy bar was discontinued in 1982.