Becoming Mr. October
Reggie Jackson, Kevin Baker
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A soul-baring, brutally candid, and richly eventful memoir of the two years—1977 and 1978—when Reggie Jackson went from outcast to Yankee legend
In the spring of 1977 Reggie Jackson should have been on top of the world. The best player of the Oakland A’s dynasty, which won three straight World Series, he was the first big-money free agent, wooed and flattered by George Steinbrenner into coming to the New York Yankees, which hadn’t won a World Series since 1962. But Reggie was about to learn, as he writes in this vivid and surprising memoir, that until his initial experience on the Yankees “I didn’t know what alone meant.”
His manager, the mercurial, alcoholic, and pugilistic Billy Martin, never wanted him on the team and let Reggie—and the rest of the team—know it. Most of his new teammates, resentful of his contract, were aloof at best and hostile at worst. Brash and outspoken, but unused to the ferocity of New York’s tabloid culture, Reggie hadn’t realized how rumor and offhand remarks can turn into screaming negative headlines—especially for a black athlete with a multimillion-dollar contract. Sickened by Martin’s anti-Semitism, his rages, and his quite public disparagement of his new star, ostracized by his teammates, and despairing of how he was stereotyped in the press, Reggie had long talks with his father about quitting. Things hit bottom when Martin plotted to humiliate him during a nationally televised game against the Red Sox. It seemed as if a glorious career had been derailed.
But then: Reggie vowed to persevere; his pride, work ethic, and talent would overcome Martin’s nearly sociopathic hatred. Gradually, he would win over the fans, then his teammates, as the Yankees surged to the pennant. And one magical autumn evening, he became “Mr. October” in a World Series performance for the ages. He thought his travails were over—until the next season when the insanity began again.
Becoming Mr. October is a revelatory self-portrait of a baseball icon at the height of his public fame and private anguish. Filled with revealing anecdotes about the notorious “Bronx Zoo” Yankees of the late 1970s and bluntly honest portrayals of his teammates and competitors, this is eye-opening baseball history as can be told only by the man who lived it.
starting to get through that maybe it wasn’t all me. Maybe the trouble with the team had to do with somebody else as well. We went to Detroit after Boston, and by that time the Boss had had enough. The way I heard it—through Fran—was that George came to Detroit planning to fire Billy right then and there. He was going to give his job to Dick Howser, who a little later became a terrific manager with the Yankees and the Royals. Billy would’ve been gone, but Dick wouldn’t take the manager’s job out
him. I did know that he had a habit of coming to the ballpark late. He would show up ten to thirty minutes before the first pitch sometimes and have alcohol on his breath. He’d have his sunglasses on, his hat pulled all the way down over his glasses. He would go in his office and fall asleep on the couch, while Dick Howser got the team prepared to play, wrote the lineup, and so on, sometimes. Dick really ran the team until it was time for Billy to wake up, just before the game. You’d see Billy
Smashed it. I was worried it wasn’t going to stay up because I thought I’d got on top of it a little. It was hit so hard I didn’t think it had a chance to get up high enough to get out. I was afraid I smothered it a bit. I remember running down to first base saying, “Stay up, stay up, stay up, stay up, stay up.” It did. It seemed like I hit it harder than the last one. Too fast for anybody to snare it. Went just four or five rows into the seats, but it was enough. I think it might have gone
where I played left field for Alvin Dark. But it was too soon. I played about a month there, hit maybe .170-something. I was nervous, and the team was doing poorly. I wasn’t ready yet. They sent me back to Birmingham. I’ve always believed that if you go up and catch on and take off, great. If you don’t, you go back down and try again. A lot of guys will say about a prospect, “You shouldn’t rush him, he’ll never develop.” But I think if you can’t recover from being overmatched and having a bad
major-league baseball, and other boys want to run away and join the circus. I got to do both.” Loved it! I gotta say, great lines. But I signed up to play ball. The truth was that Billy had already lost control of his team, even before he tried to humiliate me one more time. He’d lost control of it back in 1977, I thought, but nobody truly realized it because of Fran Healy patching things up and because of Bucky not saying anything about almost leaving the team. He lost control of it again in