My oldest brother, Augie, called me the other day and said “Hey, happy 44 … Reggie Jackson.”
Yep, it may have been my birthday, but the number 44 belongs to Reggie Jackson and that’s just the way it is. And should be. Reggie earned it with three homers on three pitches against three different pitchers in the 1977 World Series. He also deserves 44 forever for 563 career homers with 1,702 RBI and over 2,500 hits.
To be clear, Jackson, who serves as a consultant for the Yanks, started out his career as No. 9 in Oakland. But in New York, Graig Nettles had that number covered at third. Reggie’s second choice, No. 42 for Jackie Robinson, was also taken by pitching coach Art Fowler, so that left Jax with No. 44 to make his.
Did he ever, earning five of his 14 career All Star appearances while in the Bronx, finishing as MVP runner-up in 1980 for a 41-homer, 111 RBI campaign.
Reggie, who also starred for the A’s and Angels, had his downsides to be sure, like his MLB career-record 2,571 strikeouts, choppy fielding with 142 career errors in the outfield (tops among outfielders in five seasons) and enormous ego that understandably rubbed some teammates and managers (notably Billy Martin) the wrong way.
But when it came time to deliver, even Thurman Munson knew who Mr. October was. Heck, Munson was the one who first coined the phrase. Reggie stepped up his play like few others in the World Series, amassing a .357 batting average with 10 homers and 24 RBI in five appearances.
So, while I may be 44 for a time, Reggie Jackson truly is THE No. 44.