Reggie Jackson heard Billy Martin use racial and anti-Semitic remarks then, and felt it was time to talk about them now.
"You need to set the record straight," the Hall of Fame slugger told The Associated Press on Friday. "They're the truth."
The late Martin managed the New York Yankees in the late 1970s, a fiery time that included a pair of World Series championships. Jackson spoke about Martin in an interview with the MLB Network that will be shown Monday night.
"I did not accept the way he managed me. I did not accept the way he managed Ken Holtzman. I thought there was anti-Semitism there," Jackson said in the MLB Network interview.
"I couldn't accept the racial epithets in reference to players like Elliott Maddox or Billy Sample," he said. "There are players that played for him that would tell you that."
Jackson told the AP that "sometimes it's uncomfortable, but it's real and you can't ignore it."
"There's a certain time that when somebody asks you a question, you answer them," the 65-year-old Jackson said. "I don't think I said anything with venom. If you can express yourself without anger and make it as palatable as you can, that's what you do."
Jackson was asked how often Martin used such language.
"Sometimes," he said. "It wasn't all the time."
Jackson hit three home runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, earning the nickname "Mr. October." He starred again in the Series the next year as the Yankees won another title.
The relationship between Jackson and Martin was tumultuous, played out against a backdrop of what became known as "The Bronx Zoo."
"He was a guy I never got to know really well. Obviously, we didn't see eye to eye," Jackson said.
Martin died in a car crash on Christmas Day in 1989.
Jackson hit 563 home runs in a career from 1967 through 1987, and was the MVP of the World Series in 1973 and 1977. He says he was aware some players were using performance-enhancing drugs at the time.
"When (Jose) Canseco came in, he talked about steroid use fairly openly and when I was playing with Mark McGwire, he was not suspect, didn't have the size and he was not a steroid user," Jackson told the MLB Network. "McGwire, (Barry) Bonds, (Roger) Clemens — these guys were great players without PEDs. Would Canseco have his 460 or 470 home runs without? Probably not. McGwire hits 480 or 500. Bonds hits 600. Clemens wins 320."
"The sad part of that, too, is when you see the great players like Prince Fielder and great players like (Albert) Pujols, it makes you unfairly question," Jackson said.
He said he ran across someone Friday who was aware Jackson had referenced current players in his remarks.
"He said to me, 'Why did you have to mention those guys?'" Jackson said. "I told him that's what those guys who used steroids did to the game. They raised suspicions all over baseball."