Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
This jilted old town welcomed Reggie Jackson back tonight with a barrage of raw hot dogs thrown from the Memorial Stadium upper deck.
With a dozen of Esskay's finest links scattered and broken around him in the batter's box all night, the Yankees' Jackson pounded two doubles, a two-run homer and drew a walk in New York's 9-6 victory over Baltimore's Orioles.
Jackson kept cool almost all night, dishing out line drives, towering flies and flashy base running as his Yankees won their sixth straight game since going to the random lineup that Jackson plucked out of manager Billy Martin's hat last week.
But as Jackson ran off the field after the game, he had had not enough. He tried to climb the box-seat railing to punch a fan, but failed. The lone casualty was a New York fan who climbed the railing to grab Jackson's hand only to be headlocked and slammed to the ground by teammate Graig Nettles.
It was a suitable ending to a game that endured a 70-minute rain delay, two obstructions calls and the grazing of a passel of Yankees by debris thrown from the stands.
"Anybody who comes over the top of our dugout again," said Martin, "I'll take a bat to him. That'll stop it."
Jackson refused to comment afterwards, saying it would only cause more incidents. Designated hitter Jim Wynn served as Jackson's designated message bearer.
From the minute Jackson swung at the first pitch he saw tonight and grounded it into right field, this game was his theater.
As the rain-soaked outfield grass grabbed the ball, Jackson turned on his 9.7 dash man's afterburners and bellyflopped into second base, skidding over it and into short left field.
That took care of demonstrating his savvy, hustle, speed and daring. Left was an illustration of Jackson's almost terrifying power. That came in the fifth.
Baltimore's Dennis Martinez thought he had made a good pitch, one that Jackson seemed to pop up into medium right center.
But secret winds blow at the altitude to which Jackson drives balls. The awesome "can of corn" carried and carried - Oriole outfielder retreating a shuffle at a time - until the ball landed in the Bird bullpen 400 feet away.
With the two-run homer long gone, Jackson slowed his Cadillac trot to the slowest of strolles, traveling the last 80 feet to home plate in steps not more than a foot long. He doffed his helmet to the boobirds and received a royal Yankee welcome.
In those two at-bats Jackson had transformed a routine ground ball and a routine fly into a double and home run. "Look what you poor Baltimore folks are missing," he might as well have said.
Thus docs Jackson draw the baseball spotlight to himself with equal measures of talent, audacity and hot doggery.
One can see Jackson as he sees himself, as Buck Tater Man, the rifle-armed slugging champion with the blazing feet who looks the part of the strapping Yankee as few before him have.
Or one can see him the way his old Oakland teammate Darold Knowles did the day he said, "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson."
It really makes no difference to Jackson. He wins either way, and he knows it.
When he came to bat tonight he was met with thunderous boos. But the stands were crowded - fuller tonight than they have been here since opening day.
When Jackson jogged to right field he was met with a hanging effigy of himself and a sign saying, "Reggie is a Bozo." But the same fans hung forward out of the bleachers toward him, chanting "Reggie, Reggie" before the game and begging for his autograph.
Perhaps more than any player of his generation, Jackson has learned how to sell himself.
Despite a .267 career average and one of the three highest strikeout ratios in history, Jackson has negotiated a nearly $3 million contract and set up an almost unlimited future as an endorser and all-purpose celebrity.
Just as important to the total Reggie Jackson "package" as Buck Tater Man the player is Jackson the ham actor. Jackson the consummate media manipulator. In short, Jackson the Superstar.
That word may mean more to Jackson than any other.
He wears his uniform like a star - tight, muscles bulging, top button of shirt open. He runs distinctively, bent forward, a picture of barely controlled power. He seems to carry a stage with him everywhere and he is never off it in public.
Whatever the cost to himself, Jackson is determined to be noticed and remembered.
"I know it takes time for people to like me," he said tonight. "My reputation precedes me. Self-centered, they say."
Yet while the Yankees sat around their locker room tonight, rain washing out batting practice, only Jackson sat alone while the rest broke into groups for cards. When thunder could be heard outside, Jackson said, just loud enough for everyone to hear, "Is someone calling me?"
Jackson's biggest hurdle with teammates is his lust for the limelight. Other athletes avoid interviews, dodge controversy. Not Jackson.
"I made my bed," says Jackson of his choice to come to media-crazed New York in the re-entry draft. "Now I'm going to try to sleep in it."
No baseball player knows better what interviewers want to hear.
"I know how to answer questions," says Jackson. "I know how to tell the truth, but not hurt too many feelings . . . I can recognize a colorful quote . . . I don't think ballplayers understand the trouble they could save themselves if they paid attention to how to give an interview.
"For instance, on this team, we don't seem to understand that we're a store-bought team with Billy Martin for a manager, George Steinbrenner for an owner and me for a free agent. Everybody hates all of that. You must accept that the unters are out after you. When you mess up, say, 'I blew it.'"
While others are content to be interviewed, Jackson is already the interviewer. Whether he is on ABC-TV nationwide with Howard Cosell during the playoffs, or interviewing Willie Mays on something called "Greatest Sports Legends," or doing spot chats with athletes on "Superstars," Jackson has already positioned himself on the money end of the microphone.
"I am aware that I sell myself or promote myself. Sometimes you do or say something for effect," says Jackson. "But the real reason I have a good press is that I treat interviewers like people.In other words, I treat them the way I am not treated."
Jackson's biggest fear in New York is not that he will hit too few home runs. Jackson, 30, knows he is in his prime and he knows he will hit. "Yes, I have a candy bar coming out named after me," says Jackson, who has a 10-year contract with Standard Brands foods. "But we're keeping the lid on the name and everything until I get really hot."
Jackson is more concerned that he will become overexposed in the New York marketplace and "lose my authority, my sincerity, my credibility. There's always the danger that you'll end up looking like a fool."
The rain is coming down an hour before game time. The other Yankees head for shelter. Jackson does not know that he will hit a home run and two doubles tonight or that he will be the target of hot dogs, effigies, boos and signs.
But he knows that his fans want him, some calling him names, the others begging for a handshake.
He stands in the rain alone by the boxes and signs autographs for 20 minutes for the fans who have baited him and those who have begged. He knows he can't lose either way.