Reggie Jackson was the new slugger in town 30 years ago in Anaheim. Jackson brought plenty of hardware (five rings) and home runs (425) when arrived in Southern California in 1982. Albert Pujols may want to give Reggie a call and get some advice on how to get out of his SoCal Slump that has left him homerless with only four RBI’s in 21 games since joining his new team.
Pujols, has two World Series rings and 445 career home runs, but he won’t have the same incentive to get him started that Reggie had in 1982 – REVENGE! In 1977, Jackson was Public Enemy No. 1 for taking on Yankee Captain Thurman Munson in the tabloids. After leading the Yankees to two championships and four AL East titles, Reggie was the face of the franchise by 1981. But he was 36 and expendable according to George Steinbrenner. Reggie’s numbers were down in the strike-shortened season of ’81, hitting only 15 home runs in 334 at-bats. The critics thought Reggie was done and it certainly looked that way for Mr. October. Steinbrenner let Reggie walk after five years in the Bronx.
Jackson packed his bags and landed 3,000 miles away in Anaheim, Calif., with Gene Autry’s California Angels. Early on in 1982, Jackson struggled with his new team that was filled with stars that were as big as he was – Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Fred Lynn, Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich. Jackson was homerless with his new team and had only four RBI’s 19 games and 58 at-bats into the season. He looked like an old ballplayer. It looked over for Reggie, even 500 career home runs looked doubtful. OK, you might thinking this is a nice story here but what’s your point? Well, if you were too young to remember or just plain forgot, Reggie had a flair for the dramatic.
On April 27, 1982 Reggie returned to the place he called home for five seasons – Yankee Stadium. In his first at-bat as an Angel, the fans chanted “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” as they did for more than 2,700 plate appearance in pinstripes. Jackson had one hit in his first two AB’s, then in the 7th inning, Ron Guidry hung a slider and Reggie sent it into the rainy New York night for his first home run of the season. Fans went from chanting Reggie’s name to “Steinbrenner sucks” - a theme that echoed throughout the season for The Boss.
Jackson went on to hit 39 home runs at the age of 36 (tied with Gorman Thomas for a league best) and proved Steinbrenner and the critics wrong. Despite the eerie numerical comparisons to Jackson, the moral of the story is that fans in Anaheim shouldn’t panic just yet. Pujols is only 32-years-old and is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. Will he earn his $254 million contract? That is a deal that even Mr. October might have trouble living up to.
If Pujols continues to struggle, maybe he should do some research and donate his entire month’s check to charity – something the late Lyman Bostock did in 1978 after coming over from the Minnesota Twins.
Mike Damergis is a Media Director & Radio Professor for Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. Mike ‘s career started with WNEW AM & FM in 1987, as a desk assistant for legendary DJ Scott Muni. He got his big break with the Toronto’s FAN 590 in 1997, when he was named the afternoon producer for Bob McCown’s “Prime Time Sports. Mike landed with New York’s WFAN in 2004 as the evening producer and game-day radio producer for the N.Y. Giants. Damergis earned a master’s degree in journalism from Iona College and published a book about the USFL. Damergis spent five years in satellite radio, including an extensive run as the morning show producer for XM Radio’s “Baseball This Morning” with Buck Martinez, Mark Patrick and Orestes Destrade. . You may contact Mike directly @ [email protected].