Reggie remembers Yanks' title of '77
Thirty-year anniversary celebrated at 61st Old-Timers' game
NEW YORK -- Thirty years have passed since his landmark 1977 season, but Reggie Jackson still sees himself as an integral part of the Yankees.
In fact, Jackson sees a little of himself in current Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
"The one guy I could relate to in the now is Alex Rodriguez," Jackson said. "Alex takes a lot of heat all the time -- he's never good enough. This guy's hit almost 60 home runs and brought in 150 [runs], and it's still not enough. I played a lot of my career like that."
Jackson, who hit four home runs -- three of them in the same game -- in four consecutive at-bats in the 1977 World Series, was the center of attention throughout a career laced with interpersonal conflicts. Mr. October, as he is called for his performance in the Fall Classic, ended his career with 563 home runs.
"It made me a lot more comfortable with myself as a player," Jackson said. "I felt like I had reached stardom, if you will, and it's justified maybe to say that was the true Reggie style. I became the player I thought I was."
In Jackson's mind, Rodriguez is that kind of player, too.
"He's not great all the time -- some days he's bad -- but most of the time, he's pretty good," Jackson said. "You just appreciate him for that. He always answers the phone. It may not be what you want to hear, but he's going to pick up."
Despite the 30-year gap, 2007 and 1977 apparently aren't that different. On an Old-Timers' Day that honored members of the 1977 World Series championship team on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, many of those present drew comparisons between their team and the current Yankees.
In particular, the old-timers from the '77 season cited the team's ability to come back from tough loss cycles, as the Yankees have had a roller-coaster ride of a season so far.
"There were many situations that were decidedly blown up by the press, but it is a distraction nonetheless," Chris Chambliss said. "We were a professional ballclub. We knew how to overcome those kind of things."
The 1977 Yankees saw more than their fair share of struggles, often topping the headlines in the New York papers during a difficult time in the Bronx. Controversy on and off the field often involved Jackson, principal owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin.
"There was never a dull day, with all of the free spirits in the clubhouse," Rich "Goose" Gossage said.
The same level of troubles, thankfully enough, hasn't touched the Yankees this season, but their sub-.500 record is sufficient trouble for Jackson. The 61-year-old has never considered himself removed from the team, so if the Yankees are struggling, he is, too.
"I'm part of it, too," Jackson said. "From the boss down, we all have egg on our face. We all share the regurgitation."
The team he helped lead to the World Series isn't quite the same now, Jackson said. Although he credited the Yankees' talent, he was openly displeased with the team's showing so far this year.
"We used to kick butts and take names," Jackson said. "It used to be like, 'Uh-oh -- the Yankees are coming in.' Now, it's like 'Mmm, mmm, good -- the Yankees are coming in.'
"I got tears in my eyes when I heard a guy say that."
Jackson, however, will never give up on the team he loves, a part of the history he has helped to make.
"I have a very, very special place in my heart for New York, the Yankees, the fans here and all over the United States, and all over the world," Jackson said. "It means greatness, it means championships, it means great games. It's the greatest in the history of baseball."
Lauren Kobylarz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.