Three decades ago, three pitches and three home runs catapulted Reggie Jackson into baseball immortality.
And if he wasn't already "Mr. October," his trio of taters in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series made it official.
"It was probably the greatest single-game performance by a player I've ever seen," wrote former teammate Graig Nettles in his book, Balls. "It was amazing. It was the sixth and final game, and it gave me chills when he hit that third one, which was hit even farther than the first two."
Tommy Lasorda, whose Dodgers were victimized by Reggie's outburst, shared similar sentiments after the game.
"That is the greatest performance I have ever seen. That is the greatest performance that anyone will ever see," he reportedly told Jackson.
And if you don't believe Lasorda, just ask Reggie himself. Never shy to self-promote, Jackson has been portrayed as an egomaniac, a fake and a villain, but to many, he's also a hero, an intellectual and baseball's ultimate clutch hitter.
"The only reason I don't like playing in the World Series," Jackson once remarked, "is because I can't watch myself play."
His triumvirate of round-trippers on October 18, 1977 was even more remarkable when you consider that they were hit on the first pitch from three different hurlers (Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough).
"He had a flair for the dramatic . . . It's either you like him or you don't like him. There's no in-between there. I was one of the people that did love him," said Marcus Peters, a longtime Oakland A's fan who owns the No. 3 Jackson Basic Set on the PSA Registry.
Surviving well-publicized dustups with Nettles, Mike Epstein, Billy North and Billy Martin, Jackson would club 563 homers over the course of a 21-year career. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
"I always liked him as a player. I don't think he ever got the notoriety and attention he should have after the '77 season," said Dave Britz, a New Yorker who owns the No. 1 Reggie Master Set.
It was Thurman Munson who first deemed Reggie "Mr. October." It's a worthy moniker when you consider that Jackson toiled for 11 playoff teams and won five World Championships. In 27 World Series games, he slugged 10 homers and knocked in 24 runs.
His post-season heroics are a big reason hobbyists are pursuing his Basic (37 cards) and Master (252 cards) sets on the PSA Registry. Collectors also have fond memories of Reggie from their youth.
"When I was an early teenager, I was an avid Yankees fan," said Jose A. Soto, who owns the registry's No. 1 Basic Set. "I watched them on television all the time and I always used to get excited when Jackson would come to the plate because he was a power hitter and he always could send the ball a long way."
"If you lived here (New York) in the '70s, you were a Reggie fan," added Britz. "Even if you were a Mets fan, you backed Reggie, you followed Reggie."
Walt Szafranski, proud proprietor of the registry's No. 2 Basic Set, also enjoyed watching Reggie during his youth.
"I grew up a Red Sox fan so, when October came around, I watched the Yankees play and Mr. October was 'the man,'" he said.
The brash outfielder made his cardboard debut in 1969. Poor centering (left to right), print defects and a lack of eye-appeal due to faint coloring often hamper his Topps rookie (#260).
"This card is very condition sensitive and I've seen only a couple added to the PSA 8 Pop(ulation Report) during the past year," said Szafranski. "That's why the price of an (PSA) 8 has gone from $400 to almost $600 in the past year."
Of the 2,670 rookies that have been submitted (as of press time), just one has been deemed a PSA 10 and there are 27 PSA 9s. A PSA 9 copy fetched $5,415.35 in a Memory Lane auction in August 2005.
Another coveted 1969 single is the Reggie's Regiment card. Britz says that these cards were produced by a member of the slugger's unofficial fan club (who called themselves Reggie's Regiment) and were printed in limited quantities (around 100 to 125 reportedly exist). Of the five graded, two have been tabbed as PSA 9s, while the other three are PSA 7 or lower.
Another elusive card is the 1970 Transogram. Measuring 2-9/16" by 3-1/2", these cards came on the boxes of Transogram baseball statues.
"Kids, when they took the figure out, they ripped the box (and ruined the card)," explained Britz.
There have been just two Transograms graded; Britz says both have been deemed PSA 3s.
Jackson's 1971 Topps (#20) card is also difficult to uncover in pristine condition.
"Those cards, in that set in general, weren't cut very well, so a lot of them are off-center," explained Peters. "Plus, you have the black border, which is notorious for flaking and chipping on the edges."
Of the 659, 1971 Topps Jacksons submitted (as of press time), there has yet to be a gem mint example and there are just seven PSA 9s.
"The '71 PSA 9, I've yet to see one even up for auction. And I know when I do, it's probably going to be $2,000 or maybe higher," said Soto.
The 1971 Topps Greatest Moments card (#47) is also tough to track down in high-grade. Fragile black borders and centering issues on these cards frustrate collectors.
"They're notoriously off-cut, just like the rookie," said Britz.
Of the 49 Greatest Moments Jacksons that have been sent in to PSA, just one has graded as high as a PSA 9.
Another notable Reggie card is his 1977 Topps proof. This single depicts Jackson in an Orioles uniform in contrast to the regular issue card that showcases him in airbrushed Yankees gear. It has been reported that one sold for $6,000 in a 2004 eBay auction.
Despite the price realized by this proof and Reggie's braggadocio, some believe that Mr. October's cards remains underpriced, especially singles from the latter part of his career.
"You can get an '80s Reggie (PSA) 9 for under $20," said Britz.
But Britz has noticed a significant jump in the number of hobbyists on the Master Set registry and the eight-week miniseries about the 1977 Yankees called The Bronx Is Burning that ran on ESPN this past summer is bound to rekindle some interest. All of this, combined with the 30th Anniversary of Reggie's three-home run performance, could add up to a spike in popularity. To this, Reggie would likely say that it's about time.
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