A historic home run for Reggie Jackson
It was July 4th, 1979, top of the 9th, tie ballgame. The crowd was into it. Mike Marshall was the Twins’ ace in the bullpen that year. He fanned the first two batters with a wicked screwball that had mystified hitters all year. The only problem was that the next batter was Reggie Jackson.
“Mr. October” stepped up to the plate and faced off against Marshall, but Marshall was not intimidated one bit. He proved his point by throwing the first pitch so far inside and so high that had Jackson not fallen back into the dusty batter’s box, he would have gotten hit in the head.
Jackson was also not intimidated one bit. He stood up and took one step toward the mound as if to say, “I dare you to try that again.” The crowd booed.
Jackson brushed himself off and got set back in the batter’s box. Marshall came with another high, hard one, right at Jackson’s head. The crowd went nuts as they saw Jackson thrown to ground twice in a row.
Reggie stood more quickly this time and took a couple of steps toward the mound. Catcher Butch Wynager shadowed Jackson just in case things got dicey. Players from both dugouts perched themselves on the top step, sentinels and warriors waiting for the word to fight.
The umpire managed to get Jackson back into the batter’s box. The crowd was electric because they knew that Marshall had to bring something into the strike zone this time as his brush back pitches had gotten him behind Jackson on the count.
Marshall hurled a fastball right down the middle, the Minnesota crowd mocked “Reg-gie, “Reg-gie,” and Jackson swung for the moon. Whiff!
“Striiiiiiiike one,” the umpire gave the call a little extra volume igniting the fans into a 35,000 person tizzy.
“Regi-gie, Reg-gie,” the crowd mocked more boldly and more collectively. Marshall wound up and tossed a screwball to Jackson. Reggie again swung for the stars. Only this time he connected.
“It’s a high fly ball to right filed, it’s way back. Norword is back to the warning track,” cried the announcer over the din. The Twins’ right fielder, Willie Norwood, was not the guy you wanted to be fielding this ball. He had been known to lose fly balls in the sun, miss ground balls in the outfield that ended going all the way to the wall, and running into other players when trying to catch pop flies.
The fly ball was so high it looked like it flew above the stadium lights. It flew much higher than it did for distance, but still it was going to be close. Norwood approached the warning track in an awkward half sideways and half backwards stumble-walk as the ball made its steep decent from the stratosphere. The moment of truth approached as Jackson stood in the batter’s box waiting to see if would trot the pads or walk to the dugout - this was all or nothing.
Had it been Tori Hunter, Jackson sits down. But this was Willie Norwood. An ill-timed leap in effort to catch the towering fly ball failed. The ball landed not over the fence and not within the playing field. It literally landed on top of the fence and bounced over for a homerun.
Jackson began to trot around the bases slowly, making certain gestures to the fans. No one booed because there were 35,000 people that just got shot down. Once again Reggie Jackson showed why the Yankees go to post-season play and why the Twins watch it on TV.