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.
there was no ill will building up. We had spats, and we talked about them openly. Sometimes there were tussles as well. It would have been called insanity if we hadn’t won championships. I remember Blue Moon Odom got into a fight with Vida Blue in the locker room one day after the two of them won a playoff game against Detroit. Odom cut open Rollie Fingers’s head just before the start of the 1974 World Series, supposedly after Odom said something about Fingers’s wife. Rollie needed six stitches
now. Nowadays, guys wouldn’t think twice if somebody came on the team after getting a big free-agent contract. Today’s player understands the timing, of having your option year and getting the money in your turn. Back then, many guys didn’t understand that. Just like every other free agent, I had played out my option and taken my risk. If I had blown out my knee or something before I signed a new contract, that would have been too bad for me. I would have been out of luck. That’s just the risk
like, they got us yesterday, let’s go get ’em today. But what I heard much later from Fran Healy was that Billy Martin was already thinking before the game of what he could do to embarrass me. I only found this out in 2012. Why, I don’t know. Before the game, I was sitting on the bench with Bucky Dent. Billy didn’t have any confidence in Bucky’s bat; he kept making him bunt all the time and pinch-hitting for him. The day before, he put on a squeeze play with Bucky at the plate and Lou Piniella
ball fell in. Rice was running all the way, and by the time I could get to the ball, he had a hustle double. Billy goes out to make a pitching change then. But that wasn’t all. When he got the ball from Mike Torrez on the mound, Mike said later, Billy told him, “Watch this.” Thurman told Fran Healy the same thing later. When Billy got out there, Munson said, “How’d that ball drop in?” Then, while they were out on the mound waiting for Sparky Lyle to come in from the bullpen, Martin told them,
Billy comes out to the ballpark and bats me … sixth. It’s funny how much you get wrapped up in the game when you’re playing. Particularly that season, on that team. That night, the night of the bathroom plot, was July 13, when they had the blackout and the terrible riot back in New York. All those stores looted. That same summer, the “Son of Sam” case was still going on, with people living in fear. It was a terrible summer, a wild summer in New York—but we were barely aware of it. I was