Our next villain takes us back into the way back machine. We’re traveling all the way back to 1977 for this one. Back when our site’s namesake Tommy Lasorda was in his first year as Dodger’s manager, and Stacie and myself were just a gleam in our parent’s Dodger blue eyes. Everyone was partying at studio 54, disco was king, and everybody was doing the hustle. It’s Time to get a little groovy, because our top tens are certainly the boss. Our next Dodger villain hustles his way into the number seven spot. Slugger Reggie Jackson…….
7. Reggie Jackson
Back in 1977, both coasts were hit hard by sweltering summers. The Dodgers were on top of the National League West, and the Yankees reigned supreme in the American League. Jackson was drafted by the Kansas City A’s in the first round of the 1966 amateur draft. Jackson made his MLB debut in 1967, and spent nine seasons with the Athletics. The afro’d slugger was traded to the Orioles in 1976. After a productive season in Baltimore, Jackson signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees for a cool 525,000 dollars.
Jackson was a great player, and throughout his career put up dangerous numbers. He was a 14 time all-star selection, including winning the 1973 AL MVP award. While Jackson was a modest hitter for average, (a career .262 hitter), he always got on base at above a league average clip (.356 OBP, 1,375 walks). During Jackson’s 21 season career, he led the league in home runs four times, (73, 75, 80, 82). He had over 100 RBI in six seasons, (69, 73, 75, 77, 80, 82). While Jackson struck out a lot, he always put up impressive power numbers. He finished with 563 career home runs, and 1,702 runs batted in. Jackson had six seasons of 30 or more home runs, and in 1977, finished another banner year with 32 home runs, 110 runs driven in, while playing in 146 games. His defense may have left something to be desired, he still finished his career with a 74 WAR. In 1993, Jackson was inducted into the great Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackson had a great career, but he was more known for his clutch heroics in the postseason which gave him his nickname Mr. October. Those heroics unfortunately came at the expense of our beloved Dodgers.
The Yankees at this time were known as a three ring circus. Jackson’s relationship with the club and then manager Billy Martin was strained due to an interview taken out of context, and an incident during a game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and the Yankees. During the game, Jackson was slow to get to a shallow pop in right field, causing Martin to remove him from the game, and a fight nearly ensued between the two in the dugout after the inning was over. Martin, despite being like a hundred years Jackson’s senior, and several inches shorter had to be restrained after trying to attack Jackson in the Yankee dugout.
But the Yankees signed Jackson for his penchant for clutch hits in the playoffs, and he already had plenty of experience on the big stage with the A’s before he came to New York. Jackson had won three world series with the A’s from 1972-1974, with one of those titles being won against the Dodgers.
It was Jackson’s incredible performance in the 1977 World Series that beat the Dodgers in six games, and earned him his nickname. Most notably his three home run performance in the game six clincher. In that game, the Yankees won 8-4, winning the championship. Jackson slugged his first home run off of Burt “Happy” Hooton, which gave the Yankees the lead at the time.
Jackson slugged his second homer off of Elias Sosa in the fifth to give the Yanks a 7-3 lead. Finally in the bottom of the eighth, with the Yankee fans chanting Reg-gie! Reg-gie! The big slugger connected for his third home run of the game, a Charlie Hough knuckleball that Jackson drove 475 feet. Jackson had hit home runs on his last four swings of the series, if you counted his game five home run. All total Jackson batted .450 (9 for 20), with five home runs, and eight runs driven in during the series.
The following season, Jackson did it again, sticking it to the Dodgers in the 1978 World Series. This time however there was some controversy. The two clubs had made it back to the World Series for another rematch, and both seasons were considered carbon copies of each other.
The Hip Check
As the series shifted to Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers had a 2-1 series advantage as the two clubs battled in the Bronx. With the clubs knotted in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth, Jackson drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single. With Thurman Munson at second, and Jackson at first, Lou Piniella hit a soft liner towards Bill Russell at shortstop. But Russell dropped the ball and instead took a force out of Jackson at second, and tried to fire to first to complete the double play. What happened next was one of the strangest plays in World Series history. The ball caromed off of Jackson’s hip and into right field. Munson who originally retreated back to second, thinking Russell would have caught the ball, (like he probably should have), came around to score. The Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda screamed for an interference call pointing out that Jackson was running outside the base line, but the umpires would not grant them the call. This caused one of Tommy Lasorda’s most legendary expletive laden tantrums, as he screamed at the umpires.
Replays would later show that Jackson indeed stuck his hip out in order to deflect the throw from Russell. The play was pure evil, and cost the Dodgers the game. Later on with the score tied, the diabolical Jackson struck again. This time it was his single that kept the inning going, as Bob Welch finally allowed a single to Piniella that scored Roy White to win the game for the Yankees, and tie the series. The Yankees would once again go on to win the title in six games for the second consecutive year.
The Dodgers would eventually get their revenge with their 1981 World Series victory over the Yankees, which is the last time the two clubs have met in the fall classic.
Still Jackson earned his notoriety as one of the biggest Dodger villains of all time. During four World Series against the Dodgers (74, 77, 78, 81), Jackson posted an OPS of over a 1.000 in each series. Jackson slugged nine home runs, and drove in 18 runs during those four series.
Jackson left the Yankees in 1982 to sign with the Angels. He had some productive years to end his career with the Halos, including one final season with the A’s in 1987. But none of those compare with his postseason accomplishments during the 1970’s. Jackson’s crimes against the Dodgers can never be forgotten nor forgiven. This is why he was and is one of the most notable Dodger villains of all time. Plus he really ticked off Tommy, and we don’t like that over here. I think Tommy is still yelling about that liner to Russell.