This Day in Baseball History: January 22nd, 1982

More like a circus.

On January 22, 1982:

Reggie Jackson ended his tumultuous tenure in New York by signing a four-year contract with the California Angels.

After nine very successful seasons, Reggie Jackson took his very large ego to the only city in which it could fit — New York (he said that if he had played in New York previously that he would have a candy bar named after him, and sure enough when he came to the Yankees, they did). However, Jackson’s arrival quickly brought problems for the Yankees.

The first incident came during an interview for SPORT magazine. While having a drink with reporter Robert Ward, Jackson supposedly stated that he “was the straw that stirred the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he stir it bad.” Jackson immediately responded by saying his comments were taken out of context, but making a disparaging remark about Thurman Munson was a no-no. Mr. October’s relationship with his new team, owner, and fanbase strained.

Next came manager Billy Martin. When the signing was announced, George Steinbrenner, Munson, and Lou Pinella (an outfielder at the time) were ecstatic to bring him aboard, but Martin was never keen on Jackson. The situation came to a head during the June 18 game in Fenway Park. Jim Rice the Feared came to the plate and stroked a ball into right. Jackson didn’t exactly hustle and Rice got to second. Martin yanked Jackson, and Jackson, not happy, said that Martin’s drinking impaired the manager’s judgment. Martin, more unhappy, lunged at Jackson and had to be restrained. Luckily, this game was in Fenway Park, against the Yankees’ bitter rival, and on national television. The result: this.

On July 17, Jackson failed to run out a grounder, and Martin suspended him. Making things worse, Martin, six days later, grumbled, “They’re made for each other. One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.” Martin resigned the next day (though some say he was fired).

Then, George Steinbrenner got involved. In 1981, he consulted Jackson about signing Dave Winfield, and Jackson hoped a new deal would be worked out with himself as well. That never materialized, and when he was told to take a physical after the strike, Jackson openly blasted Steinbrenner in the media. During the World Series, Jackson wasn’t allowed to play Game 3 (he was injured the first two games, but he was healthy and apparently benched under Steinbrenner’s orders).

Jackson took the next off-season’s opportunity to sign with the Angels to escape the “Bronx Zoo”.

A couple thoughts. One, he couldn’t have been that bad if the Yankees were still in negotiations in 1982. Two, Martin wasn’t a saint, either (check the above link about the Red Sox game). Three, Steinbrenner isn’t a saint. Four, are you serious that the team also had Lou Pinella? How could anyone not expect that to go bad (yes, I realize that’s Hindsight Bias 101)? I guess you could blame Jackson for being a selfish, moronic butthead, but I think just about everyone had a hand in it as well. Before anyone asks, no I didn’t see the ESPN series about it, but I want to. If you know where to find it or if it was any good, please let me know.


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