A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reggie Jackson

At 6 foot 2, Babe Ruth's 250 pound "official" final weight made him the original Big Sluggi (in contrast, David Ortiz is listed at 6 foot 4 and 230 - an estimate that seems rather kind - all things considered). When "The Sultan of Swat" launched his final 3 home runs, he was too sluggish to chug around the bases, but he still gave the crowd 3 more moonshots to remember him by. They weren't his most famous home runs - the one that he called (or didn't, depending on who is asked, and history supposedly vindicates) stands as that, and while I tend to side with a pitcher who was willing to admit to having a hankering for drilling any player who would do such a thing (Charlie Root), baseball legend is gold - just ask Abner Doubleday.
And Yankee lore is all about famous home runs. Reggie Jackson swung at 3 pitches on the night of October 18, 1977 when he made Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa, and Charlie Hough wish that they never dared to come to the Bronx. Three at bats. Three swings. Three long fly balls into the stands. Gotham was in pandemonium and all was celebration. The straw that stirred the drink had done it and proved to the world that it was he and not Thurmon Munson, then Yankee Captain, who was running the show with a little help from all of the clout that a 5 year $3 million contract (when that meant something - not this inflated era of just above league minimum pay).
But Jackson was what it meant to be in New York, leaving Oakland to come to the Bronx, he made his name over a half of a decade before moving on to California and back to Oakland to finish up his show with 563 jacks and 2597 strikeouts (in this, I'm sure he's hoping that Jim Thome gets 2 more full seasons). That said, strikeouts must be OK in the Big Apple. After all, Alex Rodriguez quietly has 1836 at age 34.
But all things considered, there is only one home run that has ever been hit in the house that Ruth Built (by a Yankee) that really moves me (the Pine Tar incident not withstanding):
Chris Chambliss - The Game 5 1976 walk off home run that ends with Yankee Stadium emptying onto the field so that Chambliss has to shove the fans out of his way.
Granted, I'm a Yankee hater, and I was a Brett fan. Had it not been for that home run, the Royals would have taken the game to extra innings on the strength of Brett's homer. However, the Yankees went to the World Series for the first time since the Maris era, and Steinbrenner had arrived as the owner he was to become.
In this, part of the game is loving the game and seeing its finest moments. Since this happened when I was 5, it wasn't like watching Aaron Boone. Hell, I feel nothing with Bucky Dent - I was 7 at the time and didn't follow baseball, but to lose the game now - to Jeter, A-Rod, or Cano... I'd feel that blast.
Chambliss was a thing of beauty - a more riotous version of Hank Aaron's finest blast without the feeling of "get the hell away from me you sons of bitches."

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