Of life's collectibles, Reggie Jackson treasures most the internal combustion engine. He best likes those engines surrounded by Rolls-Royce sheet metal. But he also drives a Volkswagen. So someone asked if he chose his day's transportation to fit his mood.
"It depends more," the Yankee yakker said, laughing, "on what kind of mood the crowd is in."
Immediately, images of riot sprang to mind, with the Yankee Stadium crazies putting a torch to Reggie's purple Rolls in retaliation for a mortal sin such as striking out with the bases full.
But Jackson this day was a happy man in the world's greatest city ("It's No. 1 in sales of Reggie! candy bars," Reggie said) and he had driven to work in the Rolls-Royce.
"If we lose tonight," Jackson said, planning ahead. "I may have to come tomorrow in my Jeep. These people can get . . ."
A wink here.
". . . . hos-TILE."
Someone suggested that a riotous crowd might pick up a car.
"With YOU in it," Jackson said.
The idea today is to do a number on New York City. The Jackson dialogue is a nice way to start because if New York is anything, it is Reggie, equal parts flash and hype, extrordinary ability and extraordinary pain in the back pocket. Where else does a man with a purple beard beat on the street with drumsticks the way a wino does outside Carnegie Hall?
I love the place. I even love my hotel room. It is only $49 a night. That's a rate because of the closet, I think. The closet is so small you can't close the door unless you turn the clothes sideways. But then, you can't open the closet door unless you open the bathroom door first and stand back in there. I can see the headline: "Sportswriter Crushed to Death by Closet Door."
"I asked 'em where the periscope was," said Jim Murray, the Los Angeles sportswriter. "It's like a U-boat. Everytime I turn around, I bump into something else."
I love New York. The unexpected thrills me. They sent me to room 261. "It might not be ready for 10 minutes," the desk clerk said. When I opened the door a half hour later, I was greeted by a bear in skivvies. Or it might have been a hairy man.
"Are you, er, ah, checking out soon?" I asked.
"In two weeks," came the roar.
Adventures into the unknown are unforgettable. So I ride the subway here. For 50 cents, you can go from midtown to Yankee Stadium, passing through the twilight zone en route. Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald stood there looking brave and strong when a passenger said, "Who ya for?"
"Who do you want me to be for?" Pope said wisely.
"I saw you Dodger sign," the passenger said, pointing to a key ring that Pope had attached to his typewriter.
"I have this, too," Pope said. He showed the curious fellow his Yankee lapel pin. Pope has all bases covered when he gets on a New York subway.
More than 56,000 paying customers showed up at Yankee Stadium for the third game. The civilized world awaited the inevitable. This place is a zoo full of two-legged brutes. Doug Ran, the Dodger pitcher, remembered that from a year ago.
"Somebody threw half a hot dog into our bullpen," Rau said, "and so I threw it back."
Rau also said some naughty words.
"And then they threw wine bottles and beer cans," Rau said. The resulting flotsam put Rau to thinking of nicer places. "All that junk reminded me of fishing in Santo Domingo," he said. He has caught some nice Budweiser cans there.
The third game crowd included a guy wearing an American flag and a red crown, another in a white tuxedo with white top hat and yet another wearing an orange-blue-green wig.
And, always, there was Leroy Nieman, the artist, strolling the greensward during batting practice. Happening across Reggie Jackson, Nieman put his arm around the hero and whispered into his ear. Probably telling him where he could get a '56 Chevy cheap.
"Here, Reg, keep these open," Nieman said, and the artist made certain Jackson unbuttoned the top two buttons of his Yankee pinstripes. Nieman then laid back the make-shift lapels, revealing Jackson's considerable chest. "There," the artist said. He was mightily satisfied.
Not everyone in New York is so concerned about the Yankees. If Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Don Rickles and three million other ANgelenos cared enough to go to every Dodger game, there are New Yorkers so cosmopolitan, so sophisticated, so debonair they care not about the Yankees.
"Basebell is bullfeathers," said Konstantinos Gappas, a taxi driver who added, "Reggie Jackson couldn't carry Joe Namath's underwear." Or something like that.
"People here don't get as emotionally involved with the Yankees as, say, people do with the Red Sox," said a magazine editor. "People are not so provincial here. The Red Sox - God, we have people here from Boston and when they lost, you'd have thought the building was falling down."
How, then, would she describe the Yankees?
"An amusement," she said.
Should Reggie strike out twice with the bases full, causing him to drive his tank to work, such an assessment would, well, be amusing.