Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reggie Jackson Is a Jackass


I told the story of how I ran into baseball legend Reggie Jackson on my radio show and have gotten some email for me to retell the story on my blog. Here it is:

I flew back to Baltimore to watch my sister walk across the stage and receive her master’s degree. The ceremony was long and the school invited the ambassador from Hungary who had all the stage presence of an old brown shoe to give the address. So my dad turned to me, and said, “Let’s get out of here.” Which is his code for “I can't sit still and need a cigar.” So while the ambassador droned on about something in his country, dad and I walked out in the bright, warm sunshine of Memorial Day weekend.

In the quad, under the shade of trees, the school cafeteria staff was setting out cookies and pink lemonade so newly tasseled graduates and their family could meet up outside of the auditorium, take photos, and bask in the warm sun of their accomplishments.

As dad and I are eating some cookies, I see a man walk over to the table and ask if her could have some lemonade. It’s Reggie. Reggie Freakin’ Jackson is off to my right in the middle of Westminster, Maryland, at this small private college.

I grab my father and point out Mr. October. Dad says there’s no way that’s him. He’s still bitter that Reggie came from the A’s to the Orioles and then left after one season to join the hated bums in pinstripes, sealing his legend with Billy Martin and company. So I casually walk over and listen to him make small talk with the woman behind the table. I know his voice and that’s definitely the guy who had a semi-successful candy bar named for him.

Now I usually don’t get star-struck. It’s only happened twice in my career. (Another story for another time, and yes, both stories are completely embarrasing). So I decided to follow Reggie back into the auditorium and shake his hand. As he is looking at some plaques on the wall, I sidle up beside him and just above a whisper say, “Mr. Jackson, I just wanted you to know I am big fan.”

Notice I didn’t scream it, didn’t act goofy and get all flustered, I didn’t ask him for an autograph. I was respectful.

Reggie Jackson acted like I had thrown a turd in his lemonade.

In retrospect, I should have defiled his drink. His face went stone cold. He wouldn’t look me in the eye and actually turned away in the most dismissive, condescending way. But not before offering his hand in a half-hearted attempt to make amends. As if the baseball gods would allow me to shake his hand, just this once. I gripped the hand of a man who almost got into a fist fight with Billy Martin during a game, immediately noticing it was the lamest attempt at giving a fan some respect I’ve ever experienced.

When I went back to my father and told him what had happened, he just took the cigar out of his mouth and said, “Doesn’t surprise me.”

Look, I’ve been yelled at by rock stars and been dismissed by Hollywood people. I know my rank in the Fan v. Celebrity food chain, but this was just a jerk move by a guy who could’ve just smiled and said, “thanks.” Instead, I now wish Billy Martin had cold-cocked him in the dugout confrontation.

I have gotten email from people regaling me of their own experiences with Reggie who played at ASU and the theme seems to be the same.

Reggie should do us all one last favor and change his name from Jackson to Jackass so no one makes the same mistake I did.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, that is too bad. I was a huge fan of his back when I was a kid (who wasn't back then?) and this is really disappointing to hear. I mean, as many years as have now passed, it's not like he gets mobbed daily on the street! I would have thought he would welcome someone recognizing him. Too bad. Maybe in another 30 years, he'll see how good he had it and what a jerk he's apparently been all this time.

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  2. I met him last night after being on the same flight as him from Chicago to Philly. Got his autograph but not a nice guy at all.

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  3. I had the misfortune of meeting Reggie at the baseball HOF in 2005. I should be accurate and say that meeting him actually means having him yell at a number of fans, including me. He was participating in the HOF golf outing in which some of the players sign autos and some do not. He marches up to the edge of the green and announces that he may sign certain items for kids but will not get too close as he is sure many of us stink from being out in the sun all day. He rambled on about how he knows his own name and does not want to hear anyone saying Reggie to him. I turned to my pal and said I don't need that jerks autograph. Folks said he treated fans in a similar manner at other times over the Stop correcting "weekend". The stories about him are true...

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