Has any player had a gift for the moment quite like Reggie Jackson? In FOXSports.com columnist Dayn Perry’s new book, "Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October," all those great moments–plus Reggie’s often overlooked cultural impact–are examined in detail. To mark the release of the first bio of Reggie in more than 25 years, here are his 10 greatest on-field moments …
1. Game 6, 1977 World Series
Yes, Babe Ruth twice hit three home runs in a single World Series game, but in Game 6 of the ’77 World Series Reggie hit three bombs on three swings against the Dodgers. And if you go back to Game 5, he hit four home runs on four straight swings. That’s unprecedented. In doing so, Reggie helped end the Yankees’ longest championship drought since before the days of Ruth and Lou Gehrig. That his efforts came during one of New York City’s darkest years only adds to his legend.
2. 500th home run
On September 17, 1984, Reggie blasted a first-pitch fastball from Bud Black and became just the 13th player in major-league history to reach 500 career home runs. His historic blast came 17 years to the day after his first major-league home run – and it was in the very same ballpark, Anaheim Stadium. Reggie would end his career sixth on the all-time list with 563 homers. Today, he ranks 13th.
3. One-game play-in vs. Red Sox in 1978 This classic capstone to the 1978 AL East race is mostly remembered for Bucky Dent’s unlikely, pop-fly home run. Reggie, however, added his own signature with a long home run to lead off the eighth inning. But for that blast, Boston would have tied the score in ninth and perhaps rewritten history. "It was an insurance run," Reggie later quipped. "So I hit it to the Prudential Building."
4. 1971 All-Star Game
In the third inning, Reggie, pinch hitting for Oakland teammate Vida Blue, uncoiled on a Dock Ellis hanging slider. The ball soared over the outfield fence, beyond the outfield bleachers and the upper deck, out of Tiger Stadium, finally bouncing off a transformer that towered 100 feet over the park. Later, physicists at Wayne State University estimated that Reggie’s home run would have traveled an unthinkable 650 feet, had it not collided with the transformer. It remains one of the most amazing displays of power ever witnessed.
5. Game 5, 1972 ALCS
The 1972 ALCS, Reggie’s A’s versus Billy Martin’s Tigers, deciding Game 5, second inning. Reggie leads off third base with Mike Epstein on first. In the Oakland dugout, manager Dick Williams calls for the double steal. The throw goes to second, and Epstein beats it to the bag. Meanwhile, Reggie breaks for home. As Reggie slides at an angle, his hamstring snaps. He makes it under Bill Freehan’s tag to score the tying run, but it was costly and painful: ruptured hamstring, wrenched knee and strained calf muscle. The A’s would go on to win the game and then upset the Reds in the World Series. Reggie, however, would miss the entire seven-game epic against Cincinnati. "The worst feeling I’ve ever had, as an athlete and a human being," Reggie later said of watching his teammates win the championship without him, "was the day we won the World Series." 6. Game 2, 1978 World Series
With the Dodgers clinging to a 4-3 lead in the ninth — two on, one out — Reggie stepped in against young flamethrower Bob Welch. For seven tense minutes, Welch pumped fastball after fastball at the plate, and Reggie, swinging powerfully, fouled off impossible pitch after impossible pitch. It was a classic encounter of power versus power, with the Series perhaps in the balance. On the the third full-count pitch, Reggie was momentarily distracted by the runners in motion, and he whiffed mightily on yet another Welch heater. The Dodgers won the game. In Game 6, though, Reggie would get his revenge, as he hit a game- and Series-clinching home run off Welch. For the second straight season, the Yankees were champs.
7. June 14, 1969
In the midst of Reggie’s legendary 1969 season, one in which he appeared, for a time, on course for the single-season home run record, came a dominating performance in Boston. On this day, Reggie went 5-for-6, smacked two homers and a double, and tallied 10 RBI (one shy of the AL record). In Reggie’s final plate appearance of the game, Red Sox reliever Bill Landis plunked him with a fastball to force in a run. As Reggie jogged to first base, on-deck hitter Sal Bando called after him, "Thanks for leaving somebody on the bases for a change."
8. Sept. 5, 1970
Reggie, of course, is as famous for his brashness as he is for his baseball prowess. Late in the 1970 season, both were on display at the Oakland Coliseum. Angry over his treatment at the hands of A’s owner Charlie Finley, Reggie was called upon to pinch hit in a pressure situation against the Royals. Reggie responded by hitting the first grand slam of his career. But the show really started after he touched home plate. Reggie stomped on the plate, glared up at Finley in his owner’s box, and then raised his middle finger squarely at the owner. Then Reggie mouthed a "colorful" directive at Finley that hardly begged for an expert lip reader. 9. April 27, 1982
Reggie’s departure from the Yankees was, to say the least, acrimonious. Reggie and Yankees overlord George Steinbrenner exchanged barbs and accusations in the press, and Reggie left the Yankees for the Angels, seething. His Yankee Stadium return came on April 27, 1982. Reggie led off the seventh inning to those familiar chants of his name. His old teammate, Ron Guidry, left a slider up, and Reggie pounded it off the facing of the upper deck for a massive home run. First, the Yankee Stadium fans cheered Reggie, and then they turned toward Steinbrenner, who was frowning down upon them from his owner’s box. Within seconds, a deafening chant of "Steinbrenner sucks!" echoed within the stadium walls. Reggie couldn’t have scripted his revenge any better.
10. Game 5, 1977 ALCS
Yankees manager Billy Martin made the puzzling decision to sit Reggie for the deciding game of the ’77 ALCS. But with the Royals leading 3-1 in the eighth and runners on the corners, Martin turned to his mortal enemy. "Get a bat," he told Reggie. Reggie, submerging his ego, did so. He dumped a 1-2 pitch from Doug Baird into center, and the Yankees pulled within one. In the ninth, they pushed across three more runs and edged Kansas City for the pennant. Without Reggie’s clutch pinch hit, none of it would’ve been possible.