’77 Record Breaker (Reggie Jackson)

October 22, 2008

“By this time next week, B.J. Upton may have broken every playoff hitting record in existence.” Jonah Keri, “This World Series is must-see TV

B.J. Upton’s homer-hitting pace in the 2008 playoffs—seven in eleven post-season games—has been astonishing, a pace that would net him 103 home runs in a 162-game season. But even if he somehow manages to keep up that pace during the World Series he still wouldn’t break the record depicted in this 1978 baseball card, not even if the series goes seven games, one longer than the 1977 World Series that Reggie Jackson owned.

Has anyone ever owned a World Series more? Off the top of my head I can think of a couple other World Series characterized by the transcendently dominant play of a single player: Brooks Robinson’s 1970 World Series, and Roberto Clemente’s 1971 World Series. But when I run the blurry highlight reel in my head of those players leading their team to a championship I see them in a wider focus that includes at least one or two other players on the field. I see, for example, an Oriole first baseman receiving Robinson’s throw after another miraculous hot-corner stop, or a Pirate player scoring after a laser line drive off the bat of Clemente. On the other hand, when I think of the 1977 World Series, I think of Reggie, alone, reveling in the inarguable glory of Reggie.

Good lord, what must it have been like to be Reggie at the moment captured by this card? [Author update: as noted repeatedly in the comments below, the moment captured in the card is clearly not from the World Series. D’oh!] You could argue that no one on a baseball diamond has ever been higher. Deciding game of the World Series. Biggest stage in baseball. Biggest city in America. Three pitches, three thunderous home runs. Certainly no one had ever been so high while also possessing the presence of mind—and the hulking ego—to pause magnificently and take in all the many details of the kingdom he’d just claimed: Reggie the conqueror, admiring the view from his unprecedented pinnacle at the top of the world. God, I hated him. But the world would have been flimsier without him.


  1. 1.  Dave Winfield (nicknamed Mr. May by George Steinbrenner) was doomed from the start in New York because he could never hope to live up the the legacy of Mr. October.

  2. 2.  1 : The nickname Mr. October, in addition to influencing the derogatory Mr. May, has also influenced the short-lived nickname Mr. November (Jeter) and the name my friend Pete made up (I think he made it up anyway) for the current Yankee third baseman while that player was tearing through the first month of the season: April-Rod.

    Also, speaking of Yankees, there’s a new comment on an old post for Cecil Upshaw.

  3. 3.  At a couple of the playoff games at Dodger Stadium, when Manny Ramirez was batting the DiamondVision (do they still call it that?) showed Manny with some stats, under the headline “Senor Octubre.” I got a chuckle out of that.

  4. 4.  In the mind of my childhood, Reggie Jackson was in the same pantheon as James T Kirk: very very good at what they did, but in no way were they as good as they believed they were… or were they? Defeating the Dodgers/Klingons in the brightest limelight sure made them appear impressive to me as a 10-year-old, and I have to say, it’s still hard to wrap my head around 31 years later. I mean, wow.

    Of course, Reggie was a little smaller than full-blown immortality in those days if you lived outside the reach of the Eastern media monolith. If SportsCenter had been around then, Reggie’s greatness would be on radio waves continuously leaving Earth and reaching every corner of the galaxy. In one of those alternate universes, Reggie would BE James T Kirk. Wrap your head around that.

    The other reason Reggie seemed a little smaller than full-blown immortality was THE BRONX ZOO. If Scotty or Bones had written a tell-all, highlighting the time Kirk lost a battle of wits to Mr Kyle in the transporter room (or whoever plays Mickey Rivers in that alternate universe), James T might seem more like a man and less like a legend, too. We will never know.

  5. 5.  4 : You raise some really interesting points, LSfP.

    One in particular caught my interest, and I’d like to respectfully offer a dissenting view:

    “SportsCenter had been around then, Reggie’s greatness would be on radio waves continuously leaving Earth and reaching every corner of the galaxy.”

    I think that the current media landscape might make a guy like Reggie more widely known, but I think it would make him smaller. It’s impossible to be a legend anymore. Back then, he and other sports heros (Ali and especially ABA Dr. J come to mind) entered people’s minds in a way much more similar to the hero-making magic of folklore, and because they entered people’s minds that way, aided by each person’s imagination, they stayed there and grew rather than (as with sports star names in today’s noisy world) diminished and disappeared.

  6. 6.  Reggie hit like a backup catcher in the ALCS, but somehow he usually started hitting in the World Series.

  7. 7.  “Good lord, what must it have been like to be Reggie at the moment captured by this card?”

    Then again, the moment captured by this card is probably a spring training game or something. There’s sunshine. Game 6 of the World Series was, of course, a night game.



  9. 9.  7 , 8 : OK, I am dumb.

    Anyway it was always the World Series for Reggie.

  10. 10.  You said it, Dr. Wilker.

    I think part of the magic of Reggie was that you didn’t see him every day-you mostly read about him. If he wasn’t torturing the Red Sox in person, you scanned the box score, looking for that KC or Cal line- “Jackson 4 2 3 5”, as they win again, sweeping another series and lengthening their lead over us.

    If you saw him every day on SC, the swinging strikeouts would have been more obvious.

  11. 11.  “Good lord, what must it have been like to be Reggie at the moment captured by this card? You could argue that no one on a baseball diamond has ever been higher. Deciding game of the World Series. Biggest stage in baseball.”

    Josh, no offense, but I don’t think this card depicts game 6 of the world series. It’s a day game (and game 6 was played at night). In fact, I don’t think the Yanks played a single HOME day game in the 1977 world series, and while I cannot be 100% certain, I don’t think those are Dodgers in the dugout.

    I think the moment may have actually been captured by THIS CARD —> http://tinyurl.com/6qkuwr

    Of course, even the card I’m citing may not have actually been from the series. I do kind of like the fact that Martin is watching Reggie though, don’t you? What was Billy thinking?

  12. 12.  11 I didn’t catch comments 7 and 8 until I went back and read more carefully. But, I do think that the card you’re looking for is here: http://tinyurl.com/6qkuwr

  13. 13.  12 , 13 : Thanks for the link to that card, Jeb. I think I’ve got that one, too, somewhere.

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