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.
complained, so he kept sending him out there to third. Same thing with Dewey Evans, same thing with Fisk. He stood by his players, told the press how hard they were playing despite their injuries. But putting them out there when they can’t perform isn’t really doing them any favors. You just end up embarrassing them—and they’re too tough to ask out. It isn’t fair to the other players, too, who want to win. I know Zim couldn’t have rested everybody, but … Well, who knows, I wasn’t in his shoes.
time that I was used to a much more liberal place like Oakland, Berkeley, and the Bay Area. People didn’t know what I was talking about, but it was true. As much as New York maybe thought of itself as liberal, it wasn’t the same thing. Berkeley is liberal—the Left Coast, man! California’s dress is not nearly like it is here, in the East. It’s more T-shirts and jeans. Whereas New York is still suit and tie. California is more laid-back. New York is hustle-bustle; it’s in your face at all times.
herself—for America. It’s possible for people like her, like Jackie Robinson, like Muhammad Ali, who were once looked down on, to become models of dignity for our country. Ali’s become someone all of America is proud of; he’s transcended color. He’s become a part of American folklore. The tragic part is that leading African American athletes, leading African Americans of all kinds, have to run these gauntlets of criticism. You see it with President Obama. Whenever it’s convenient for his
cared. The meeting was at eight o’clock in the morning. I got there at eight. Billy got there about eight thirty. Still with alcohol on his breath. I don’t know if he was drunk at our breakfast or if he’d been up all night. Gabe started talking about everybody getting along and how the Boss had called to see what needed to be done. He asked us to say something, and I just told him what happened. I said I was hustling. I was just playing deep on Rice, and I thought Randolph had a chance at the
better just relying on their instinct. I was one of those guys. I believe Jeter is as well. There are guys who analyze everything. The time the pitcher takes to release the baseball, how long it takes for it to get to home plate. They have it down to a tenth of a second—the amount of time it takes the catcher to receive the ball and then to throw it to second base. From that they will tell you precisely how long the leads are that you need to take if you’re going to steal. They’ll figure out