All-Time A's #8:
Reggie Jackson was one of the many superstars who talked a better game than he played. For someone with a lifetime 139 OPS+ that is quite an impressive feat. His prediction that he would soon have a candybar named after him proved a self fulfilling prophecy and comments like anointing himself "the straw that stirs the drink" made him far more popular with the media than his teammates.
After he finished at Arizona State, the A's selected Jackson with the second pick in the 1967 draft, behind Steve Chilcott - the
only first of two #1 picks never to make it to the bigs. He debuted with mixed success that summer in Kansas City but the team's move to Oakland the following year ushered in the Reggie Jackson era. The 29 homeruns he hit that year set a team rookie record that would stand for nearly 20 years and was good for fourth in the league. Of course, his 171 strikeouts was the first of four straight seasons of leading the league. He finished in the top 10 for 18 straight years (including 1983 when he accomplished the feat in fewer than 400 ABs). This early success along with Jackson's brash personality proved too much for Joe DiMaggio to overcome when, as the A's hitting coach, he tried to teach Jackson to cut down on his swing to maintain his power production but improve his batting average. Jackson's .262 career batting average and 563 homeruns mirrored the kind of player he was from day one. Both at the plate and with the press, Jackson never got cheated.
In 1969 Reggie had his best individual season, hitting 47 homeruns, driving in 118, scoring 123, and walking 114 times - all career highs. While he may have had a career regular season, the best was yet to come.
Does clutch hitting exist? I don't know for sure but if anyone showed it to be a repeatable skill, it was Reggie Jackson. His 10 walk-off homers is the third highest total in history but is just the beginning of the story. An injury in the LCS would delay Reggie's emergence onto baseball's biggest stage by one season, missing the first of the A's three consecutive World Series Championships, but in the 1973 World Series, Reggie announced to the world that he was Mr. October. He followed his 1973 MVP campaign with an even better World Series against the Mets. In game 6, with the A's facing elimination, Jackson went 3-4, driving in 2 and scoring a third to account for all of the A's runs in their 3-1 victory. In game 7 he added a two run homer as the A's polished off the Mets 5-2. His .941 WS OPS earned him WS MVP honors but pales in comparison to his four other trips to the World Series. He followed that up with a 1.045 WS campaign to beat the Dodgers in '74 and posted a career 1.212 WS OPS in five series' - four victories.
With free agency brewing and Charlie Finley breaking up the A's, Jackson was traded to the Orioles that offseason. 32 homeruns later, Jackson was a free agent and on his way to New York City. The game's biggest mouth finally found the game's biggest microphone and candybars, championships and Thurmon Munson awaited. Reggie's personality led to quotes like "The Reggie [candybar] is the only candy bar that unwraps itself and tells you how good it is," and "It's the only candy that tastes like a hot dog." It also led to frequent fighting with Munson, manager Billy Martin and even at times, the Boss himself. He played and fought with the Yankees for five years, taking three trips to the Series and winning two. Of those two, 1977 was the most memorable. In six games, he posted a 1.792 OPS against the Dodgers and became the first player since the Babe to hit three homeruns in a single WS game and the first ever to hit five in the WS.
By the end of 1981, Jackson had worn out his welcome in New York, that offseason he packed his bags and took the Yankee's playoff hopes with him to the California Angels of Anaheim. 1982 was the first year of a 14 year playoff drought for the Bronx Bombers. 1982 was his last great year, leading the league in homers for the fourth and last time. He spent 5 years in Anaheim chasing Mickey Mantle and the #6 spot on the all-time homerun list.
In the winter of 1986 he announced his intentions to retire after playing a final season with the Oakland A's. He would serve as a mentor to young sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire while making his farewell tour around the league.
He retired that fall and was an overwhelming first ballot Hall of Fame pick in 1993.