LOVERRO: Reggie Jackson’s latest quote denial is last straw for author

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“I’m the straw that stirs the drink.”

It’s not quite, “A day that will live in infamy,” or “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but Reggie Jackson’s words printed in the June 1977 issue of Sport magazine remain among the most powerful and defining quotes in all of sports.

It defined who Reggie was. It identified George Steinbrenner’s Yankees ownership and the whole “Bronx Zoo” era.

“[Thurman] Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad.”

And now Reggie says he never said it.

According to Associated Press, Jackson, in his new book, “Reggie Jackson: Becoming Mr. October,” scheduled for publication Tuesday by Doubleday, Reggie says, “It never happened.”

That’s so Reggie — making headlines in his new book by denying the very quote that, while angering his teammates, helped create the whole Reggie persona.

Reggie’s denied it in the past, claiming he was misquoted. But now he’s taken his denial to a new level. He’s says the writer tried to make him say it.

“The whole time he was trying to feed me that quote, but I know I never said it,” Jackson said in the book, according to the Associated Press. “There’s no way I’d be that dumb to knock the captain of the team — and, by the way, the guy who told George Steinbrenner to go get me on the free-agent market.”

This was a quote that was made 36 years ago, in a magazine that has long since ceased to exist. And the writer of the story has long since left it behind, going on to far greater things than a Reggie Jackson Sport profile.

But it still keeps pulling Robert Ward back.

Ward, a Baltimore native, moved on from magazine profiles in Sport, New Times and Rolling Stone to become a successful novelist and screenwriter. He wrote for Miami Vice and perhaps the greatest network drama of all time, Hill Street Blues. He also recently published a collection of his magazine stories called “Renegades,” which, of course, includes the Reggie story.

“It’s the same old crap,” Ward said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home. “But he gets more outrageous with each time, now saying I fed him the line.

“This was not a guy who would be bullied,” Ward said. “Next thing I wonder if he will say I never really existed. No one put words in Reggie’s mouth. I didn’t have to feed him anything, and I wouldn’t do that anyway. The idea that he was some poor, shy guy who had to be fed lines. Does that sound like Reggie Jackson?”

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