In 1977, Jackson hit four homers on four swings because he connected off Hall of Famer Don Sutton on his last at-bat in Game 5, which the Dodgers won 10-4. Call it a preview of coming attractions.
You might assume, with all this success, that Jackson would be adored by his managers. Forget it, at least in one case. Reggie and the equally hot-tempered Billy Martin tangled repeatedly during the 1977 season, once nearly coming to blows in front of a national TV audience. It’s unlikely that Martin was applauding during Jackson’s fireworks show in the 1977 Series, although it earned the Yankees their first championship in 15 years.
Jackson also frequently incurred the wrath of owner George Steinbrenner. The following season, Martin suspended Jackson for five games for defying an order to bunt. Describing his two club adversaries for reporters the night his right fielder returned, Martin famously said, “One’s a born liar [Jackson], and the other’s convicted [Steinbrenner had been indicted for illegal campaign contributions].”
Steinbrenner promptly fired Martin for the first of five times and gave the job to the stolid Bob Lemon, who directed the Yankees to another World Series triumph over the Dodgers in 1978. The prickly relationships among Jackson, Martin and Steinbrenner were examined 30 years later by ESPN in a series titled “The Bronx Is Burning.”
Following Jackson’s final blast in Game 6, the crowd of 56,407 chanted “REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!” until their hero emerged from the dugout and took a bow - not reluctantly, we may assume.
“Suddenly I didn’t care what the manager or my teammates had said or what the media had written,” Jackson once recalled. “It was the happiest moment of my life.”
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