A well-rounded treatment of one of baseball’s most celebrated and controversial figures.
In the first Reggie Jackson biography in years, Foxsports.com baseball columnist Perry (Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones, 2006) reaffirms the notion that when it comes to sports superstardom, monstrous talent combined with enigmatic character truly yields the stuff of legend. Few Hall of Famers have done it with the path-breaking mix of panache, bombast and raw achievement that defined Jackson’s career. Looking back on Jackson’s childhood—his parents were largely absent—the author argues that he “was a lonely child grown into a lonely man,” and he explores Jackson’s roots alongside fleshy chapters detailing his turbulent years in Oakland and New York. Walking away with 563 home runs, 1,702 RBIs, 14 All-Star trips, five World Series rings and two World Series MVPs, “Mr. October”—the moniker was somewhat wryly bestowed, writes Perry, by then-teammate Thurman Munson prior to Jackson’s historic three home runs in three swings in Game Six of the 1977 World Series—also had broken sports’ racial barrier in unprecedented ways. Infamous for portraying himself as his own biggest fan, Jackson refused to take lightly his mistreatment at the hands of Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, Charlie Finley and others. In June 1977, railing after Martin removed him from the field mid-inning, Jackson lamented to a group of writers that the “Yankees are Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle. I’m a nigger to them, and I just don’t know how to be subservient. I’m making seven hundred thousand dollars a year, and they treat me like dirt.” Interestingly, though, Perry points out Jackson’s repeated reluctance to serve as a black icon, wishing instead to be appreciated for his talents and compensated in a fashion befitting his white teammates.
A provocative portrait sure to win as many fans and detractors as its red-hot subject.