This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The New York Yankees have long had players that epitomized the franchise successes(and failures) and a few key players that have garnered nicknames for the months during which their greatest successes occurred. Current Captain Derek Jeter earned the title of “Mr. November” when he homered in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series moments after the midnight hour. Teammate Alex Rodriguez and former Yankee slugger Dave Winfield have earned derisive nicknames, “Mr. April” and “Mr. May” respectively, a play on the clutch ability of the players.
All of these nicknames pay homage to perhaps the most impressive clutch player in baseball history. While there is a debate about the overall truth of ”clutch’ performances, there is no doubt that “Mr. October”, Reggie Jackson, ranks as one of the greatest postseason players in history.
In an October 1980 issue of Baseball Digest, John Kuenster wrote about Reggie Jackson putting up Hall of Fame numbers. Click here to read the full article!
Born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania in 1946 to a former Negro League player, Jackson wasted little time making his mark on the baseball world. Drafted by the Kansas City Athletics as the second overall pick in the 1966 Amateur Draft, he spent parts of just two seasons in the minor leagues before reaching the major leagues on June 9th, 1967. For the 1968 season, the Athletics moved to Oakland and Jackson became an every day player, slugging 29 homers.
For the player and the team, the pairing proved to turn things around permanently for the franchise. Coming off a 6th place finish in their first season in Oakland, Jackson’s 1969 season was a breakout year, when he slugged 47 home runs and at one point kept pace with the record setting 61 home runs hit by Roger Maris in 1961. The 1969 season was the first of seven times he finished in the top 10 for Most Valuable Player.
After a down year in 1970 when Jackson hit 23 homers, he embarked on a terrific five year stretch that changed baseball in the Oakland, California area. Between 1971 and 1975, he led the American League in home runs twice, and averaged more than 30 home runs a year. He earned Most Valuable Player honors for the 1973 season, which capped off a tremendous stretch of success that included five straight trips to the postseason, including three straight World Series victories. Though he missed the 1972 World Series with a torn hamstring, his presence was felt in the subsequent Series, which earned him MVP honors. For his career, Reggie Jackson had a .357 batting average in 5 World Series.
On the heels of their 1975 ALCS loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Athletics shipped Jackson(along with two other players) to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell. The Baltimore Era of Reggie Jackson was short lived, as the New York Yankees signed the outfielder to a five year deal worth nearly $3 million dollars in November of 1976.
Jackson’s impact on the Yankees lineup was immediate, as the team reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons in The Bronx. The back to back World Series wins in 1977 and 1978 were the first for the franchise in 15 years. After homering in Games 4 and 5 of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yankee captain Thurmon Munson famously told reporters to speak with “Mr. October” during the series. This came before the three homer game, which confirmed the name that would forever link the slugger among the greatest Yankees of all time.
Reggie Jackson’s best season in The Bronx was during the latter end of his tenure with the team. In 1980, Jackson slugged 41 home runs and hit .300, finishing second in the MVP voting. His worst season as a Yankee came in 1981, which also happened to be his final season with the team. Despite reaching the World Series for the third time in five years, Jackson clashed with George Steinbrenner and signed a five year deal with the California Angels during the off season to return to the west coast.
Though the Angels reached the ALCS twice with Jackson, he was unable to regain the mystique of “Mr. October” that he had garnered earlier in his career. For his final season in the big leagues, 1987, Jackson signed with the Oakland Athletics.
Reggie Jackson retired with 563 home runs, good for 13th all-time. He also ranks first all-time in career strikeouts with 2,597. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 on his first ballot, and wore a Yankee cap for his induction. In addition to being a central figure of The Bronx Zoo in the 1970’s and being the namesake for the “Reggie!” bar, Jackson has remained a part of American culture with appearances on various television programs and cameos in films. He threw out the first ceremonial pitch at the new Yankee Stadium, and remains a special advisor to the New York Yankees.
Also Celebrating A Birthday:
Brooks Robinson(b.1937), spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Orioles and ranks as arguably the greatest third baseman in MLB history. Robinson earned sixteen consecutive Gold Glove awards between 1960 and 1975 to go along with eighteen All-Star team selections. In addition to his 1964 American League Most Valuable Player Award, he also earned series MVP honors for his role in the 1970 World Series and the All-Star Game MVP nod in 1966. His number 5 was retired by the Baltimore Orioles at the end of his final season in 1977, and in 1983 he became one of just sixteen players to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.