Reggie Jackson as told to Davis Daley
When things were hard in New York, with Billy Martin or the tabloids or teammates, George Steinbrenner asked my dad to call me and offer some guidance.
My dad gave me practical, pragmatic advice. He was a tailor, and there were lots of conversations where he said, “You don’t want to come home and do what I’m doing. You don’t want to be working for me.” “Do what you’re supposed to do,” he said. “Beat on the baseball. Don’t worry about the manager.”
Those were his terms. You beat on the baseball and things will work out. As long as you’ve got a bat in your hand, you have the final say — you have the last word. That mattered, because when I was a kid in the late 1950s, your father was the sheriff. If you didn’t do what he said, he’d start taking his belt off, and you got your mind right — in a hurry.
Back in the days when I was a kid and then a teenager, your father was the law. It was different then. When we ate dinner at my house, and the old man came home after work, you were quiet at the table. There was no discussion of “How was your day?” and how school went and what the teachers were telling you and what you were learning. His interaction with school was when the report card came home. If you did anything to require your father to go to school and look into how you were performing, you got whipped. You did not make the old man miss work.
There weren’t any discussions at the dinner table. He read the newspaper and he ate dinner. If there was any little rustling of the fork too much or something – he had his readers on, that he got at the drug store – and if he pulled the newspaper down to look at you, to stop you from what you were doing, you were interrupting him. There was no, “Stop doing that.” He’d look at you and you’d stop.
So during my time with the Yankees, he didn’t want to hear, “The papers are making up stories about me.” Or “I have 45,000 people on my case.” No bullshit!
Were those problems about race? I never thought, “I’m the highest-paid player in the game, and I’m an African-American male.” I kind of looked at what’s going on and went, “Wow. What’s happening?” You know, during the season, very early in the ’70s, certainly ’76, I knew I was the highest-paid athlete and that was impactful. I knew what some of the challenges were. It’s not top of the mind but it is part of your experience; it goes with the territory.