Reggie Jackson, tall, dark and solitary Yankee, finally has what he has always sought.
Jackson has become baseball's King Midas of fame. Everything the slugger touches turns to instant celebrity.
Since Aesop, men have been warned to be careful when they make a wish. It just might come true. And then often "the getting famishes the craving."
Only two things are certain in Florida this spring, and they aren't death and taxes. Turn on the radio and hear Elvis. Turn on TV and see Reggie.
Presley was driven inside the gates of Graceland by fame. So far, Jackson has merely been driven to an occasional outfield wind sprint to escape the Action News locusts and autograph muggers.
"Sometimes, I just have to be alone," he said. "The outfield is about the only place they won't follow me.
"It's been hectic. It's been hard," says Jackson of the five months since he hit his fifth World Series homer last October. Then he grins. "And it's been a pleasure."
Reggie Jackson has been in rigorous, self-imposed training for superduper stardom for 10 years. It has been the purpose of his life. If he can't handle it, thrive on it swallow it whole, then it probably can't be done by an athlete.
"Reggie's gotten more attention than Babe Ruth ever did," said Yank Ken Holtzman, an ex-Oakland mate, laughing, "because there's more to get now.
"He just soaks it up.Yes, his desire for fame may be insatiable."
"Superstar, superstar, sign for me," scream the kids. And Jackson signs - before the game, after the game and even during the game as, between sprints, he stands by the bullpen fence exercising his penmanship.
"I almost got close enough to touch Reggie," a middle-aged blond tells her children after she has survived the hand-to-hand combat outside the Yankee stage door.
Hugs, handshakes, kisses - Jackson denies nothing.
Can it all get to be too much, a mixed blessing, even a curse?
Jackson seems genuinely nonplused by the notion. "I don't understand that idea," he said. "I wanted to come to the Yankees. I wanted to hit three home runs in a Series game.
"I've earned everything I've got."
Most athletes fear the sort of demands that Jackson must now face. "They're going to expect a homer every time up now," said Baltimore's ken Singleton. "That can be rough."
Not for Jackson. He knows how to turn almost everything his way.
On his first night in Baltimore two springs ago, Jackson had reported late to the Orioles. He asked to take batting practice alone in Memorial Stadium after the game.
All the lights were left on. A thousand fans stayed to see the new star. Jackson was awful. In a hundred swings, he didn't hit one ball over a fence. The fans hooted and cat-called.
"That's all right," grinned Jackson. "I'll have this little town in my pocket when I get hot. I'll mash seven taters in a week and win them all to my side. That'll be twice as much fun."
And he did, hitting homers in six straight Oriole games.
On his first game back in Baltimore last spring after his free-agent defection, Oriole fans littered the batter's box with raw hot dogs. Jackson homered, doubled, ran wild on the bases, tipped his cap and even took a swing at a box-seat heckler.
"The day I was traded to Baltimore was a watershed in my life," Jackson said this week. "I'd been with one organization for 10 years before that.
"Since then my life has gone faster and faster. It's forced me to change, to grow, to adapt," said Jackson, spinning off into one of his automatic-pilot, self-improvement spiels.
"God never puts more weight on you than you can handle. The bigger the shoulders, the greater the burden."
Such an undisguised hunger for importance has alienated Jackson from his Yankee teammates far more than it ever did in Oakland or Baltimore. The A's grew up with Jackson and simply saw him as an old minor league buddy who had suffered through 171 strikeouts in his rookie year. They knew how to needle him and make him laugh at himself.
The O's kept their distance and seemed amused. Few thought Baltimore could hold a fellow who wore a "Buck Tater Man" tee-shirt, collected Mercedes and flashed big diamonds. They enjoyed the circus.
The Yankees, however, won the 1976 pennant without Jackson. The nexus of Munson, Nettles, White, Lyle and Co. was tight-knit then and still is. They have frozen out Jackson. Of all baseball's stars, Jackson probably is the most conspicuously isolated on his own team.
"Why should I pay any attention to what Reggie says?" manager Billy Martin asked last October. "None of his teammates do."
Jackson has more friends on any visiting team than he does on his own. He leaves the field last after N.Y. batting practice. He does his "stretching" exercises in the outfield in the last minutes before the game by himself.
Mickey Rivers and Carlos May vacated the lockers they had on either side of Jackson in Yankee Stadium last year.
"It's true," said Jackson, "that I isolate myself and single myself out. No, another player might not go out alone to run sprints just minutes before the game.
"But when the spotlight is on you, when all eyes are on you, it forces you to perform."
Few doubt that Jackson is now baseball's No. 1 asset, even if he is far from being it's No.1 all-around player. He was, for instance, eighth in the American League MVP balloting last year.
"I got a kick out of seeing Reggie hit those homers," said Baltimore manager Earl Weaver. "You like to see something nice happen for the game. Nobody'll ever forget it."
"I remember watching that game on TV like it was yesterday. The camera was on Reggie all night. He'd put up one finger, then two, then three," said Carlton Fisk of the Boston Red Sox.
"He'd mouth the words, 'Hi, mom,' and 'Me an' Babe'," laughed Fisk, shaking his head. "I remember him tipping his cap in right field after the third one.
It was great stuff, but it's just a little too much for me to digest.
"It seemed like Reggie had thought it out beforehand, like, 'What should I do if I do something great tonight?'
"I saw the World Series highlight film and they have The Babe superimposed over Reggie as they run the bases together. That's a little too much when they start comparing a guy who's had one good game with a legend like Ruth."
Many inside the game have resented the fact that it was Jackson who produced the game's most dramatic moment in years. Jackson has mentioned his alleged 160 IQ and opened his wallet full of $100 bills too many times.
"Reggie's got a 160 IQ?" Mickey Rivers said. "Out of what? A Thousand?"
Even if Jackson's aptitude isn't somewhere between Mozart and Voltaire, he can certainly rattle off a TV guest spot without mouthing the idiot cards.
His sense of theater and plot-line is total. He has raised headline stealing to an art. "I wrote 162 leads last year," kidded one New York scribe, "and 160 of them were about Reggie."
Whether Jackson homers or whiffs, errs or atones, speaks out or vows silence, he constantly keeps the pot boiling.
When he sees O.J. Simpson saving babies from fires or Jim Brown grunting, Jackson figures he could do better.
"I can act," he said with a smile. "I know I can. It's just a matter of whether I want to stay away from home that much after I retire."
It is a mark of the unique spot Jackson has made for himself that he pays no attention to whether he ruffles his teammates. "If we keep improving," he said, "we have a chance to be better than the A's."
In his battle with Martin, Jackson has taken all trumps, as he told friends last summer that he would. His position is so secure that he is now extending a fragile olive branch to Martin.
"This year will be easier because I have the respect of my manager and his support. We'll fight side by side."
Never have so many eyes been on Jackson, and, at the prime age of 31, he is going to make those pinstripes look like a Givenchy design.
Jackson has already faced his first minipressure situation.
The first exhibition opponent was, of course, Los Angeles. And in his first at-bat in the first inning, Jackson spiked the first pitch for an RBI single to drive in the first Yankee run.
The Fort Lauderdale crowd roared at Jackson keeping his first-pitch streak intact against the Dodgers.
"Oh, I might have paid just a little attention to that first pitch," Jackson said, his eyes twinkling. "Not much. No point in swinging the bad good in the spring. There's nothin' out there. The last 10 days of spring training I'll start gritting my teenth. Gotta put something in the bank so I can draw on it.
Those who have watched Jackson play in the limelight know better than to think he will soil his one indelible game by starting the next season by bouncing checks.
"Reggie is a charlatan," said L.A.'s Don Sutton. "But he's a charlatan with credentials. He may con people and sell himself. But he produces."