The hero looked straight into the hot white lights of the television crews storming the Yankee clubhouse. Fistfuls of microphones were thrust into his big, round-structured face lest any precious syllable go unrecorded. The world was his and the hero knew it. Three home runs in a single World Series game. Just like Babe Ruth. Now he,too was an immortal.
But he wanted to spread some credits around. "I want to thank George Steinbrenner and my Yankee teammates and the Yankee fans and Billy Martin . . . and Standard Brands," Reggie Jackson said.
Steinbrenner got a mention, naturally. No other club owner offered him that $2.9 million bundle for signing a contract. And Jackson was saying that his Yankee Teammates helped out a bit in winning that pennant and the World Series, and he wouldn't forget them or the fans. As for Martin, the manager who once tried to bench him, well there is a time to be forgiving.
But Standard Brands Inc? Aha, in his hour of his supreme glory, Reggie Jackson could remember an old friend. Who took him more seriously than the big foodstuff conglomerate, when Reggie declared last year that, "If I played in New York they'd name a candy bar after me?" This perhaps was an immodest pitch to bracket himself with Babe Ruth of candy bar fame, but Standard Brands took the gamble and signed Jackson at a hefty figure for candy bar purposes if he did hit those home runs he promised.
On Wednesday night, Jackson launched a billion candy bars. He did it with those three home runs he hit in his persistent first-pitch attack against three Dodger pitchers. He destroved the Dodgers forever in the 1977-World Series, regained respectability for the American League, and raised some questions about the practicality of the low potions manager Tommy Lasorda feeds his Dodgers.
Lasorda, apostle of the endearing hugs and even kisses for the Dodgers athletes by way of showing his gratitude to them, failed sadly to make a successful love-in of the World Series. His athletes didn't respond. There is also evidence that they were entirely too kindly toward the Yankees. They were Lasorda's pussycats.
The more practical baseball people would ask howinell Jackson got those three good pitches to hit for home runs. His first homer, off Burt Hooton, might have been understandable. But the next time Jackson came up, he should have gooten a warning, a sort of unspoken message in the shape of a high inside pitch, that he should stay loose up there and not dig in with another home run swing, at least not right away.
Instead, Jackson got from Elias Sosa the same kind of low first pitch he had golfed out of the park against Hooton. Old Dodger teams, not these Dodgers, would not have liked that. Roy Campanella, with a small conference at the mound, would have indicated to the batter that he should look to duck. But these Dodgers are more friendly fellows. Catcher Steve Yeager didn't signal brushback. Not even the next time Jackson came up, so help us. No wasted high pitch to tell Jackson to back off because we don't like what you been doing.
Unbelievable, what Jackson got the third time, after his back-to-back homers was another first pitch down his favourite alley, this time from Charile Hough. And there was chuckle in Reggie's bat when he swung. Off it came his longest homer, into the almost dead center seats where nobody sits, a 450 footer that will be frozen in time, at least for a while.
By that time, the Dodgers were not even competitive. They were now adoring of the Yankees, to a fault. Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey even applauded with a clap of his hands as Jackson rounded the bases on the homer that tied him with Ruth. There are other managers, unlike nice guy Lasorda, who would have Garvey committed for such heresy. Leo Durocher could prove that Garvey had taken leave of his senses and perhaps even should be considered too dangerous to be at large in any sane baseball community.
It was exactly 343 days ago that Yankee owner Steinbrenner decided Jackson was worth what he was asking. His Yankee teammates, some of whom despised Jackson's big-shot tendencies, are grateful to him now. At least their wives are. Reggie's heroics in Game 6 determined that each Yankee would get $32000 out of the series, not the $22000 loser's end.
It was the Yankees, with their pitching supposedly thin, who showed the stronger pitching at the finish. The Dodgers were forced to go for relievers. This edge was because of the solid work all the way to win Game 3 but came back to start Game 6 and still shut the Dodgers out in the last six innings. Torrez was striking a big blow for himself, too. He is technically a free agent now. And the Yankees must renegotiate his contract if they want to keep him around. Torrez now has superfine leverage in any contract talks.