Long after the game was over, after his 500-foot, three-run home run into the black bleachers in dead center field had beaten the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2, Reggie Jackson stayed in Yankee Stadium's right field.
Picking up money.
The grounds crew was collecting the bases. The cleanup crews had started their sweep after the Yankees' final regular-season home game. Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver, his fourth-place Orioles 2 1/2 games behind Detroit, was deep into his postgame dissertation, saying, "Now we've gotta sweep three from the Tigers in Detroit (and a final three at home against the Yankees). It's mandatory."
But Reggie Jackson was still on the field, stooping and plucking up a dollar, a quarter, even a penny at a time as thousands of the 44,481 fans stayed in the park and cheered his one-man collection agency.
Finally, police begged Jackson to leave. Jackson -- who is in the last year of his Yankee contract and soon to be a free agent again -- smiled and waved as he bid farewell to the fans here who have come to see him as a symbol of vast, paradoxical, mixed-up, arrogant, lovable, vain, cynical but sentimental New York.
"If this was goodbye to New York, then it was nice," said Jackson, whose first-inning homer gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead off Dennis Martinez after just four batters and gave rookie phenom Dave Righetti more help than he needed in an overpowering four-hitter.
As Jackson meandered to the clubhouse, his hat was filled with 10 pounds of money -- $82.56, including $17 in $1 bills.
"They were showing their appreciation and I appreciated it," Jackson said. "It was 'thank you' for the last five years.
"It almost seems like they touch you when you pick up their quarter. There were some Baltimore fans yelling, 'Stop throwin' quarters. Throw dimes.' Then, when I picked up the dimes, they said, 'See if he'll bend over for pennies.'
"And," said Jackson, almost proudly, "when I picked up their pennies, they went crazy, yellin', 'All riiiight, Reggie.' "
If this isn't a parable, then they don't write 'em any more.
However, its meaning -- the gist of this vainly modest millionaire stooping for the pennies of his adoring fans -- is, as with all good parables, moot.
What wasn't moot today was a Yankee win that blasted Oriole hopes on a weekend in which everything broke perfectly for Baltimore. Except, that is, their own play. Had the Orioles won the last two days here, they would have been tied with Milwaukee for second place, just a half-game behind Detroit.
One play changed this game. With runners and first and third and no one out in the first, Dave Winfield hit a two-hopper at, and off, shortstop Lenn Sakata for an RBI "hit."
"I should have caught it, but I didn't. Certain double play. That's the kind of play they give you a glove for," said Sakata.
Up stepped Jackson. Dempsey called a curve. Martinez (14-5) shook him off, preferring a sinking fast ball -- scouting-report power to power.
The tiny white dot from Jackson's bat landed in the first row of black bleachers, caromed to the top of the deserted ebony seats, then dramatically trickled down from aisle to aisle as Jackson roamed the bases.
Enter Righetti. The left-hander had what Rich Dauer called "an overwhelming, high-rising, power-popping fast ball." In the second, that fast ball was wild as Righetti walked three straight then gave Al Bumbry a bloop two-run double. In the fourth, with two on and one out, Righetti fell behind Gary Roenicke, 2-0. "If I walk him, I'm out of the game, good stuff or not," said Righetti. Roenicke -- who knows why? -- swung and dribbled to third for a double play.
"That one pitch saved my butt," said Righetti. "After that, I challenged 'em on every pitch."
Case dismissed. The mortal lock rookie of the year retired the next 18 men.
That left the Birds with nothing but bravado. "Who's starting for Detroit on Monday?" asked Weaver.
"He won't last two innings," said Weaver.
Will Ken Singleton (bruised foot) return to the lineup?
"Yes," said Singleton. "The doctor says I can do everything but go dancing."
Jackson is the one dancing now.
Tossing money at him began in August in Chicago the day after he was subjected to a complete medical exam -- at the behest of team owner George Steinbrenner -- to try to find the cause of his .199 average.
"At that time," said Jackson, "I really felt humiliated, like damaged goods . . . I harbored it so much that . . . I actually lost my confidence."
Chicago fans, pitying the millionaire (and also hoping he'd come to Chicago as a free agent), threw cash.
Jackson's miasmal self-doubts evaporated; he homered in his first at bat the next day and has been restored since, batting .310 in his last 28 games with eight homers and 25 RBI.
"I've been saving every penny I've picked up . . . over $200. If I don't come back to New York next year, I'm going to have a big glass apple made and put all the money inside as a souvenir."
On Saturday, Jackson blasted a 475-foot homer. "That was for me," he said.
"Today, I hit this one for them," said Jackson, who knows only one other ball has been hit into those remote bleachers by a Yankee. Yes, Jackson's last homer of the '77 Series landed there.
"I can't hit it any further," he said.
Reggie Jackson is still plenty interested in money -- and not pennies. "Us free agents gotta show people we still got sock . . . deep sock . . . rock 'n sock . . . George'll have to come up with $82.56, and then maybe $2 million a year for three or four years on top of that," needled Jackson.
But money, no matter what his detractors say, does not make Reggie tick. He runs on pride from within and affection from without.
Sitting by his locker, his hat of cash beside him, Jackson pulled up his T-shirt, sucked in his flat stomach, flexed his muscles in a mock Mr. Universe pose and laughed.
"And they said this body was washed up."
Can October be far away?