Last week I had the privilege to speak with author Dayn Perry about his new book, “Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October”.
Other than Reggie Jackson being a great ballplayer, one of the greatest of all times, I was able to learn about Mr. October’s Jewish Roots. Where he came from and who he is.
Reggie whose parents had divorced at a young age, was brought up by his father in a community close to Philadelphia by the name of Wyncote. Jackson had primarily Jewish friends as he grew up as Perry writes in the book how “his girlfriends were Jewish, his teachers and coaches were Jewish and his father’s customers were Jewish.” A place where Reggie was accepted for who he was and what he did.
Wyncote, was a “racially enlightened place…made Reggie’s upbringing rare among professional baseball players.” He did not know how lucky he was growing up where he did.
When he played minor league baseball in Birmingham, it was as if he was introduced to a new world. One where racism was at the forefront of battle. One that he did not recognize and one that he should never have.
Being verbally abused as a young up and coming ball player was difficult for Reggie. It seemed that serenity and security of Wyncote was far, far away.
Wyncote was a big part of who Reggie was and how he was raised. From right to wrong, he knew that the African American baseball player for the most part had faced the ugly head of racism and that those before him experienced more trials and tribulations. Some of which were not protected as Reggie had been.
In reading Bill White’s memoir, “Uppity-The Untold Story of Games People Play”, the former ball player and President of the National League, grew up facing this reality almost everyday as a minor leaguer.
And of course how can one forget about the man who broke the baseball’s race barrier, Jackie Robinson.
Robinson was able to ply his trade for the Montreal Royals, the minor league cub of the Brooklyn Dodgers before making it to “The Show”. In Montreal he was able to live a normal life, one where he was accepted and faced almost no racism, but at the same time, this prepared him for what awaited him at the major league level.
To some extent, Reggie did not know what awaited him by being brought up in the comforts of Wyncote.
There was a small incident back in July of 2008, where Jackson was caught on tape haggling with a Jewish artist in New York. A big story was blown way out of proportion and if one had truly understood his upbringing would understand who Jackson really was and still is to this day.
Of course Jackson’s career was full of twists and turns, be it in Oakland, Baltimore, New York and California, but one can say this, his career on and off the playing field was never boring!
From his World Series triumphs with Oakland and The Yankees, to his 3 homerun game in game 6 of the 1977 World Series, to his relationship with both owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin, baseball Hall of Famer, Jackson is one of the most interesting characters around.