Monday, October 24, 2011

Reggie Jackson of the New York Yankees has just hit
his third homer of Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, this
one off Los Angeles Dodgers knuckleballer
Charlie Hough.
 It took someone 34 years to repeat the feat of hitting three home runs in a single World Series game, previously accomplished by only Babe Ruth (1927) and Reggie Jackson (1977).
Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals did it Saturday night in Game 3 against the Texas Rangers.
So . . . let's take a walk down memory lane to Jim Murray's Oct. 19, 1977 column titled "Reggie Renames House Ruth Built.”
Enjoy . . . and thanks for your continued support of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation.

October 19, 1977, SPORTS


Reggie Renames House Ruth Built

   NEW YORK — Excuse me while I wipe up the bloodstains and carry off the wounded. The Dodgers forgot to circle the wagons.
   Listen! You don't go into the woods with a bear. You don't go into a fog with Jack the Ripper. You don't get in a car with Al Capone. You don't get on a ship with Morgan the Pirate. You don't go into shark-infested waters with a nosebleed. You don't wander into Little Big Horn with General Custer.
   And you don't come into Yankee Stadium needing a win to stay alive in a World Series. Not unless you have a note pinned to you telling them where to send the remains. If any.
   They told us these weren't the real Yankees. I mean, not like the genuine article of years gone past, the Murderers' Row Yankees, the Bronx Bombers. These were just a bunch of pussycats dressed up in gorilla constumes.
   These were Yankees who had "take" signs in the playbook. These were Yankees who talked of "beating you with the glove." These were "hit-and-run Yankees," not the old kind who just stood there and hit balls into the stratosphere and played "hit and walk" baseball.
That's what they told us. That's what the scouting report said.
   They said these Yankees weren't even speaking to each other. You wondered why they dared show up.
   Years ago, oldtimers remembered, on the1927 Yankees the right fielder in World Series used to stand there and hit back-to-back home runs out of the park. Why, he hit three in one game in World Series twice!
   Well, the 1977 Yankees' right fielder has just hit home runs on his last four consecutive official at-bats. And he became only the second player in history to hit three home runs in a game.
   He became the first player in history to hit five home runs in a single series.
   You have the feeling the Dodgers pitchers are longing to see Babe Ruth step in there.He might be a welcome relief.
   "If I played in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me," boasted Reggie Jackson before the season started. They may name an entire chocolate factory after him now.
   Once again these were the Yanks who had your back to the wall when you were ahead only 2-0. Once again they were head-hunters. If they were fighters they'd never go to the body. Once again, they're a bunch of guys who go for the railroad yards in bombing runs or shell Paris with railroad guns.
   These are the Yankees who let you store up runs like a squirrel putting nuts in his cheek. When you get the all neatly piled up, the Yankees come along and pile up more with two swings of a bat.
   These Yanks are store-bought. They're not homemade like a proper ball club should be, stitched at home with tender, loving care. George Steinbrenner just went out and ordered them like a new car. Expense was no object. It didn't matter. With George, it was either a question of buying a ball club — or buying Rhode Island.
   There's an old familiar smell in the Yankee locker room — fermenting grapes. The wine of victory spreads across the floor, the waterfall of success. Where Ruth or Gehrig once dribbled champagne across their chins, Reggie Jackson does now.
   The reporters are 10-deep around Jackson's locker in this House That Ruth Built.  It is Jackson's Yankees now. "Mr. October." The most dangerous World Series hitter since Ruth used to call his shots.
   No one has ever seen more devastating home runs than Reggie Jackson ripped out of Yankee Stadium Tuesday night. Two were on so-so fastballs but the third was a knuckler down and away. "He hit a helluva pitch," Da Manager Tom Lasorda confessed later, still in some shock.
   The pitchers' union is not ready to strike its colors. The pitcher who threw it, Charlie Hough, recalls it as a knuckler that didn't knuckle.
   One of the homers was a line drive that would have crossed state lines and gone through the side of a battleship on its way to the seats. The other two were booming Jack Nicklaus-type tee shots, high and far, the kind that pitchers wake up screaming in the middle of the night over.
   Reggie was, for him, composed as the forest of microphones was thrust under his chin and the photographers called for one more shot of a tilted champagne bottle.
   How often had Ruth struck this pose for the midnight tabloids? Mantle?
   The home run is to the Yankees what the Raphaels are to the Vatican and the pyramids to the Pharaohs — symbols of glory and tradition.
   How many National League teams have been bludgeoned in this hallowed stadium by mighty multiple home runs? You see a Dizzy Dean struggling manfully to hold down the floodgates of homers in 1938, a Wee Willie Sherdel, a Carl Hubbell, a Charlie Root in 1932. And now a Hooton, Sosa and Hough.
   The star-of-the-day, the new Sultan of Swat in Yankee Stadium, was managing to sound more like a one-man HEW bureau. "What am I going to do?" Reggie Jackson answered slowly. "First, I'm going to go out and have a few drinks and put some of this money back in circulation. Then I'm' going to share my World Series money with the city of New York which did so much for me, go to Phoenix where I live and to Oakland where I came from." What did he feel on becoming the first man to hit four home runs in a row in World Series. "Jubilation, relief, pride and some justification," added Reggie.
   This was a team that was supposed to self-destruct before your very eyes about the seventh inning of every game. They weren't supposed to be real Yankees that they made movies about.
   From what anyone could see in the wreckage of the Dodger planes, the only difference between the 1927 Yankees and the 1977 Yankees is a few million dollars in salaries.
   The 1927 Yankees is the yardstick against which baseball historians measure all subsequent teams. Oldtimers' eyes mist over when they say, "You should have seen that bunch!"
   Today's bubblegum collectors can take the offensive, too. "Baby, you should have seen the 1977 Yankees, the Jackson Yankees. Four at-bats in a row. Reggie hit home runs-on four swings. Reggie hit the first pitch on all four of them. Match that around the Ruth Yankees."
   Reggie gets unlimited champagne, a new Thunderbird and a page all his own in the record books and a free trip to Cooperstown. But the Yankees get a new mythology. This stadium will be the House That Reggie Built. He goes to join Ruth's call shot, Mantle's tape measures. It's his Series. It will be remembered as The-Year-That-Reggie-Jackson — the year that Reggie Jackson hit five home runs, the last four his last four times up. No one will remember anything else about it 20 years from now. The 1977 World Series is Reggie Jackson's. Everything that went on before he stepped to center stage was a prologue. It was an opera that all led to the appearance of the star. When the scene was set and the overture over, Reggie gave 'em goose bumps.
   It was one of sports' great moments, the kind of thing that will make 500,000 people who weren't, say "I was there." The homers will get longer, higher, farther in the retelling. But nobody has to embellish the frequency.
   We're no likely to see their like again.
   But then, they said that about Ruth, too, didn't they?

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times.

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