Someday, when folks read the history of Reggie Jackson's October shenanigans, they just aren't going to believe it.
This guy can't even get hit between bases by a throw without becoming a hero. Sometimes the entire sport of baseball seems to rotate around him.
Once again yesterday, the New York slugger was at the center of every clutch crisis and every hysterical controversy as his Yankees evened the 75th World Series at two games each against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yankee Lou Piniella got the sudden-death single in the 10th inning that won this 4-3 battle. Yank reliever supreme Goose Gossage was the winning pitcher, outdueling rookie Bob Welch in a ninth- and 10th-inning showdown of near-100-mile-per-hour fast balls.
Nevertheless, when Roy White sped home from second base with the winning run as Piniella tomahawked his crisp two-out liner into center off Welch, most of the thoughts of the 56,445 fans in Yankee Stadium were on October'c child.
To be sure, Jackson hit in the clutch again yesterday. When the Yanks trailed, 3-0, on Reggie Smith's three run homer off star-crossed birthday-boy Ed Figueroa, it was Jackson who put the world champions on the board with an RBI single off Tommy John in the sixth.
Naturally, it tied a record: Jackson has driven in a run in eight straight Series games, tying Lou Gehrig's mark. Jackson has hit .517 in that span.
In the eight inning after Thurman Munson had doubled home a run to tie the game, 3-3, it was Jackson who stood to the plate with the crowd thundering, "Reggie, Reggie."
When Terry Forster threw his best fast ball at Jackson hitting him in the elbow, the fans let out their thunderous boos. Jackson has been hit or thrown at continuously for the last three games. Those repercussions still hand in the air, unsettled business of an extreme nature.
And, indubitably, this contest's last inning could not do without Jackson. With White on first after a walk and two outs, Jackson faced Welch in a rematch of their Rookie [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Legend face-off that ended game two in L.A.
Then, Welch won. This time the rookie had buzzed through the other Yanks on three whiffs and four feeble pops. But Jackson, his enormous pride on the line, lashed a single into right, sending White to second and exploding Welch's aura of invincibility.
Two pitches later, Piniella "toma-hawked a fast ball at eye level," and this loose and baggy four-hour monster of a game - complete with 40 minutes rain delay - was over.
Nonetheless, all these essential happenings will fade with the years, and one play will grow larger, both for its peculiarity and its importance. If the Yankees go on to repeat as World Champions, it will probably be called the turning point of this Series.
Perhaps the most difficult task in baseball is trying to fathom what goes on in Reggie Jackson's mind. That should become a national parlor game after this game.
In the sixth inning with Yankees on first and second, Piniella hit a sinking, knee-high liner to the left of Dodger shortstop Bill Russell. Both Yank runners, Munson on second and Jackson on first, broke with the crack of the bat, then headed back toward their bases as Russell seemed certain of a catch.
But Russell dropped the ball when it hit the palm of his glove. Pamdomonium broke loose. Runners seemed to be going in every direction. Confusion reigned, deliciously.
Russell scooped up the ball, tagged second for a force out on Jackson, then threw to first attempting to complete a double play.
It would have, had not Jackson stood stock still of first base, in effect shielding Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey. The ball struck Jackson's leg and deflected down the right field line.
Other runners, in such mayhem, might have frozen, but Munson kept running and scored easily to cut the Dodger lead to 3-2.
To complete the bizarre scene, both Jackson and batter Piniella stood with one foot on first base - obviously not taking any chances until a final ruling - while eight Dodgers and six umpires did a dance of dementia between first and second base.
Perhaps no one except Jackson will ever know if his deflection was instinctive brilliance or pure dumb luck.
With Dodgers screaming, "Intentional interference. That's Rule 7.09F," deep into the night, Jackson was not about to say he did anything on purpose.
"I broke toward second when I saw it hit, then I broke back to first when I thought Russell would catch it, then I broke back toward second when he dropped it. Then when he threw it right at me, I didn't know where the hell to go. He threw it right in my road and I just froze.
"I was just standing around and got hit with something," he said.
Overhearing that comment, another Yankee regular said, "Knowing Reggie as a base runner, that sounds about right."
The Dodgers, to a man, opted for the Reggie is a genius theory. "Reggie did it on purpose. He got away with it. And it cost us the game," said L.A. Manager Tommy Lasorda.
"Fifty years from now when I'm looking at the old books, I'll still be certain he stayed there on purpose and kew exactly what he was doing," said Garvey. "Reggie's smart. He knew he had nothing to lose by letting it hit him. If he'd gotten out of the way, Piniella would have been doubled up at first.
"Any human's instinct is to get out of the way. To stay directly in the path of a hard throw when you can see it clearly for 75 feet has got to be deliberate."
Several TV replays seemed to endorse that theory. Jackson's deflection seemed deliberate and a piece of instinctive baseball brilliance. Maybe.
According to umpire Frank Pulli who called the play, Jackson's state of mind was irrelevant. "There is nothing that states that a man running toward second base has to get out of the way. If he goes out of his way to get in the way of the ball then we have intentional interference."
Ramification of this debate, are almost endless, so common sense becomes useful. On a normal double play, it is the pivot man's responsibility to throw the relay so it misses the runner. If the runner is conked, the ball is in play, just as it was after Jackson was hit.
On the other hand, base runners on obvious double play balls cannot stand in front of first basemen and shield them. "Intentionality" comes into play here. Jackson did not intentionally stand in that peculiar position near first base.
Russell's odd play, his dropping of the liner, made that a sensible place for Jackson to be standing. So, he had no obligation to move when the throw came at him.
The afteraffect was perhaps most important. "Once the ninth was past, and you know that the game, and probably the Series, would be yours if it hadn't been for that run, you can't help but think about it," said Garvey.
That play lingered in every mind. "I figured that extra run meant we'd win," said Gossage. "I looked at Welch and thought, 'You're not going to beat me. You're good, but you're too young."