Reggie Jackson hit the wall today and for a while looked as if they'd have to send it to the hospital for X-rays.
There were two out in the bottom of the fourth, no score and a man on second. Doug DeCinces hit a long drive to the bullpen wall in right field and Jackson followed the ball to its logical conclusion.
"I didn't go for the wall," Jackson said later. "I went for the ball."
He got both. A moment after Jackson hit the wall Goose Gossage went over it, jumping out of the Yankee bullpen. John Wayne never went over the hill that fast. "I was scared," said Gossage. "I could see the entire season flash in front of my eyes. I said, 'Oh, geez, if he's lost, the season's over.'
"When he opened his eyes, they wre rolled back in his head. He was semiconscious. The first thing he said was, 'Let go of my arm.'"
Under normal conditions, Jackson's forearms are not so much limb as trunks.
After the game, his left arm, which took the brunt of the collision, looked like a giant redwood, pink and swollen.
"I think it's dead, he said.
If Jackson got his, so did the wall.
"He knocked down the fence," said Tom Underwood, incredulous.
"That's right," said Rudy May. "There's a crossbar out there behind the Cyclone fence. A split second after he looked up, his arm hit the crossbar and he knocked the wire out of the fence this far."
He held his arms three feet apart.
"Johnny Oates had to put the wall back together again," May said.
And as he did, all of Steinbrenner's horses and all of Steinbrenner's men ran out to see if they could put Reggie back together again.
"We were really worried," May said. "We thought he was spitting out his teeth. But it was just his sunflower seeds."
Bobby Brown, the center fielder, was among the first to arrive. He grabbed the ball and held it aloft for umpire Rich Garcia to see. Garcia had not yet made the call. "I had to do it," Brown said. "If I hadn't, Earl Weaver would have been out there screaming for three days.
Weaver stayed put, and so, initially, did Dick Howser, Yankee manager. "It's like a car wreck," Howser said. Some people like to look. Not me."
Trainer Gene Monahan gets paid to look. He said he has seen worse. Like the time in spring training when Ron Blomberg ran flat out into a concrete wall. "I've scraped Reggie off the field before" said Monahan. "He knows how to handle himself."
Especially, some would say, on national television. "I thought he killed himself," said Scott McGregor. "Earl said, 'Oh don't worry, he's just playing the dramatic," and I said, 'he just hit the fence full speed with his head.' I hoped he had a mild concussion. . . nothing serious . . . so I wouldn't have to face him again. But he wouldn't do that -- not on national TV."
So, with the eyes of a nation upon him, Jackson picked himself up and headed for the dugout under his own steam. It takes more than a wall to knock all the wind out of Reggie. And the Baltimore fans applauded.
How could he consider leaving the game? "I thought about it for a fleeting half-a-second," he said. "I knew if I could get up I could play . . . I have to play, even if it's half way."
Jackson struck out in the sixth and ninth innings. "I thought I was feeling okay, Maybe I wasn't."
Jackson, who normally catches flak for the catches he doesn't make, has made some beauties in Baltimore this weekend. He's accustomed to being on the defensive about his defense.
"When you can do the things I can do on a baseball field, people look to knock you in some way," he said. "One way to knock me is my fielding. Every writer I have ever met says, "He's great this, he's super that. But his fielding is horse manure.' It's their way of saying I'm not quite as good as the old greats."
Before the game, when Jackson came out to take batting practice, the Yankee partisans along the first-base line roared. His back to them, Reggie raised the index finger of his left hand high in the air. They knew who was No. 1.
In the bottom of the fourth, with the game standing on second base, Jackson took one look at the ball and headed for the fence.
The great ones never look back.