11 Hard-Hitting Facts About Reggie Jackson

As a 14-time All-Star and Hall of Fame baseball player, Reggie Jackson's statistics are legendary. But the right fielder known as "Mr. October" was more than that; he was one of the most famous World Series MVPs ever, a key figure in the gradual acceptance of African-Americans in the sport, and the man behind both 563 home runs and pronouncements of his importance. Over time, the myths and legends surrounding Jackson have flirted with the actual history, so on the occasion of his 70th birthday, it seems a good time to lay out some truths about Reggie Jackson and his legacy.

1. HE ORIGINALLY WANTED TO BE A FOOTBALL PLAYER.

Reggie Jackson's dream during his junior year at Pennsylvania's Cheltenham High School was to be a professional football player. But on Thanksgiving 1963, the running back twisted his knee. At the hospital, doctors weren't sure he would ever play again. Instead, he came back later that season, only to snap his neck while tackling someone. After finishing the game, he went back to the hospital where he was told he had fractured five cervical vertebrae and warned that he might never walk again.

Jackson didn't have much luck on the baseball field during those same years either; he got hit in the face during batting practice and broke his jaw in five places. Though doctors told him he would miss the rest of the baseball season, he missed just three practices and one game before hitting .550 and throwing numerous no-hitters.

2. HE TRIED OUT FOR THE COLLEGE BASEBALL TEAM IN HIS FOOTBALL UNIFORM.

Jackson was heavily courted by colleges for his football abilities (he averaged 8.0 yards per carry and led the district in touchdowns). Both the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia were said to be willing to integrate their football programs for him. Instead, he opted to accept a football scholarship to Arizona State University, where he would also be allowed to play baseball.

Jackson still had to get on the baseball squad though. One day after football practice, he approached ASU coach Bobby Winkles asking for a tryout. The next day, still in his football pants and spikes—and not having swung a bat in almost a year—Jackson faced off against a varsity pitcher and swung at seven pitches. Four were for home runs.

3. HE DEALT WITH RACISM IN HIS PROFESSIONAL CAREER.

After his freshman season on the college baseball team, Jackson became the first African-American player for an Orioles-affiliated amateur team in Baltimore. He broke the color barrier because, according to Jackson, he "talked like a white boy" on the phone with the club before joining, and they didn't realize he was black until he showed up to play.

Jackson had it worse in 1967, when he joined the Kansas City Athletics' Double-A minor league team in Birmingham, Alabama. He wasn't allowed to eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels, or share an apartment with his teammates. But his manager, John McNamara, refused to eat at any restaurant or stay at any hotel that wouldn't have Jackson; then teammates Dave Duncan, Rollie Fingers, and Joe Rudi let Jackson stay with them for two weeks while he looked for a place of his own. Jackson told USA Today he'll forever be indebted to them. In 1988, Jackson also famously said: "After Jackie Robinson the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that."

4. HE CELEBRATED HIS FIRST CAREER GRAND SLAM BY GIVING HIS TEAM'S OWNER THE FINGER.

After an exemplary 1969 season with the Oakland Athletics, Jackson demanded a raise from $20,000 to $75,000. But the A's owner Charlie O. Finley held steady at $40,000, right up until 10 days before opening day, when the two settled on $45,000, plus the rent to Jackson's Oakland apartment. Jackson wasn't thrilled; he was also out of shape from missing spring training and got off to a poor start, so Finley demanded that McNamara bench him. After McNamara acquiesced, Jackson demanded a trade, which Finley refused. When Finley threatened to demote Jackson to the minor leagues, Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that Jackson couldn't be sent down. Jackson gradually improved, but remained upset at Finley.

Late in the 1970 season, Jackson came up to pinch hit and hit the first grand slam of his career. When Jackson reached home plate, he looked up at Finley in his owner's box, extended his middle finger, and mouthed an expletive.

5. HE COULD HAVE HIT A BASEBALL 650 FEET.

In the third inning of the 1971 All-Star Game, Jackson hit a Dock Ellis slider over the upper deck at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It hit the transformer that was 400 feet from home plate and 90 feet off the ground. Wayne State University physicists estimated the homer would have traveled 650 feet had the transformer not gotten in the way of the moonshot. In 2006, Ellis blamed catcher Johnny Bench for the incident. "He called a bad pitch," Ellis said. "I wasn't familiar with Reggie Jackson at the time. Reggie was a breaking-ball hitter, and that's what Bench called."

6. JACKSON JOINED HIS JEWISH TEAMMATES IN HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE MUNICH MASSACRE.

After terrorists murdered several Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics, three Oakland A's—Ken Holtzman, Mike Epstein, and Jackson—wore black armbands during their September 6, 1972 game against the Chicago White Sox. Epstein later said of the incident:

"We were in Chicago at the time to play the White Sox, and we walked around town for a few hours. We were just in a daze, like: How could something like this happen? Don’t people remember? Don’t they have any sense of history? So we decided: To memorialize the event, we’d wear the black armbands. Lo and behold, wouldn’t you know it, Reggie Jackson got a hold of some black material, and he put a black armband on, too, as a way of getting some attention."

For Jackson, who grew up in the largely Jewish community of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, it was more personal; he wrote that when he was a kid, "a lot of my friends were Jewish."

7. IF IT WASN'T FOR REGGIE JACKSON, ROLLIE FINGERS WOULD HAVE NEVER HAD HIS MUSTACHE.

When Jackson showed up to spring training in 1972 with a mustache, everybody on the A's wanted him to get rid of it. After Jackson refused, four of his teammates—including Fingers—decided to grow mustaches, with the hope that manager Dick Williams would make all of them, including Jackson, shave them off. The plan backfired: Not only did Williams not say anything about the facial hair, but team owner Finley liked the mustaches so much that he decided to have a Mustache Day at the stadium, and gave $300 to every player who had one. Fingers became so synonymous with his 'stache that he opted to retire instead of play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1986, who refused to exempt him from their no facial hair policy.

8. BOTH JACKSON AND THE YANKEES REGRETTED SIGNING HIM AT FIRST.

After the Yankees won the American League title but got swept by the Reds in the 1976 World Series, they looked to make off-season moves to win a championship. The team, who already had five left-handed batters in the lineup, signed Jackson to a five-year contract worth just under $3 million. During spring training, Jackson's new teammate Sparky Lyle told a reporter, "I don't think we need him. Not to take anything away from his talents, but what we really needed was a good right-handed hitter. A right-handed superstar."

In a May 1977 Sports Illustrated article about the team, it was reported that Jackson told "non-baseball acquaintances" that he was regretting signing with the team, and when a photographer told him he had just left from shooting pictures of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jackson said that maybe that's where he should have gone.

9. HE ONCE CLAIMED HE WAS MISQUOTED FOR FOUR PAGES.

Team captain Thurman Munson and Jackson initially needed to be tricked into having breakfast together by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to play together peacefully. Robert Ward's article in Sport magazine made the relationship a lot worse early in the 1977 season, when Jackson was infamously quoted as saying, "I'm the straw that stirs the drink. It all comes back to me" and "No team I am on will ever be humiliated the way the Yankees were by the Reds in the World Series! That's why Munson can't intimidate me. Nobody can." Almost as famously, after claims that Jackson was misquoted, Munson asked, "For four pages?"

10. THE "MR. OCTOBER" NICKNAME WAS ORIGINALLY SARCASTIC.

Jackson went an unimpressive 2-for-16 in the 1977 American League Championship Series. Although accounts vary as to what exactly was said, during the World Series that year Thurman Munson dismissed Jackson’s mediocre performance up to that point by calling him "Mr. October." Jackson responded by tearing the cover off the ball for most of the Fall Classic against the Dodgers, particularly in Game 6, when he hit three home runs off of three pitches to give the Yankees the title, earn his second World Series MVP award, and the moniker "Mr. October" for the rest of his days. "I must admit, when Reggie hit his third home run and I was sure nobody was looking, I applauded in my glove," Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey said.

11. HE HAD HIS OWN CANDY BAR.

Before he joined the Yankees, Jackson said, "If I was playing in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me." Somewhat inspired by the line, Standard Brands’s Curtiss Candy produced the Reggie! Bar, which was in fact a circular-shaped concoction of caramel, peanuts, and milk chocolate. They were handed out to fans at the 1978 Yankee Stadium opener. When Jackson hit a homer in the first inning, the crowd threw the candy onto the field, to the annoyance of the opposing team, the Chicago White Sox. Yankees pitcher Catfish Hunter quipped, "When you unwrap a Reggie! bar, it tells you how good it is." Dave Anderson of The New York Times wrote that it was the only candy bar that tasted like a hot dog.

Years later, Jackson admitted he was ambivalent about the candy shower. "I was concerned that people didn't like [the candy bar]," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Standard Brands and Curtiss Candy out of Chicago, they thought it was the greatest PR thing they ever could've dreamed of because they got like two and a half minutes of airtime on national television. They really thought that it was wonderful. I was nervous that people didn't like it."

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.

2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.

3. IT WAS A QUICK SHOOT.

It was shot in just 42 days.

4. THE KIDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH YOUNGER.

Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."

5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.

The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.

6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.

Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.

7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.

The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)

8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.

It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.

9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.

On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.

10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.

Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”

11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.

Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.

12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.

The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)

13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.

When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.

14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.

The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”

15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.

The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

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STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.

2. MICKEY MANTLE, 1952 TOPPS // $1.13 MILLION

Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.

4. PETE ROSE/PEDRO GONZALEZ/KEN MCMULLEN/AL WEIS, 1963 TOPPS // $717,000

So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.

5. "SHOELESS" JOE JACKSON, 1909 AMERICAN CARAMEL // $667,149

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.

6. NOLAN RYAN/JERRY KOOSMAN, 1968 TOPPS // $612,359

Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.

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