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The interview took place in spring training in Fort Lauderdale, after Reggie signed a high-profile five year, $3 million deal with the Yankees. It was at a popular Lauderdale bar called the Banana Boat, and Reggie wasn’t the only one there. His manager, Billy Martin, was in the bar as well, along with his friends Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

Their presence, along with Reggie’s ego and insecurities, may have fed him the line.

Reggie came into the bar wearing one of those “Superstar” T-shirts, from the television show,” Ward said. “Martin and Mantle were sitting at a table. I was waiting at the bar. They started teasing him, ‘Look at the real superstar.’ He stood there and laughed but you could see it was awkward for him.

“Whitey Ford was wearing a pink cashmere sweater,” Ward said. “He came over and said to Reggie, ‘Mr. Superstar, can I trade with you? I would be proud to wear that T-shirt.’ So Reggie laughed and played along with it, took off the shirt and took the sweater, though it didn’t fit him.

“Ford walked away, and Reggie said, ‘This is something I have to play along with,’” Ward said. “But he clearly didn’t like it, and started talking about the resentment they felt toward him. I asked him if he thought race was involved, he said, yes, they don’t like a black man getting attention. Then I asked him if he thought because he was intelligent as well, then he went off.

“‘People don’t understand how smart I am,’ he said to me, and then it didn’t take any more than that. ‘I’m the straw that stirs the drink,’ he said, and then it came streaming out,” Ward said. “The attitude of those guys stirred him up.”

Between Reggie making headlines with his new book and Alex Rodriguez’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball, you would think the Yankees were in the postseason. A-Rod, though, was the needle that poisoned the drink.

Reggie stirred it, and maybe someday he’ll be secure enough to own up to it.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,”noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio