Research for my next book, about the OaklandA’s dynasty of the 1970s, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2015, has turned up boundless examples of unwritten rules from that bygone era. The latest concerns Reggie Jackson, freshly traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1976, who was unappreciative of the fact that his teammates were getting knocked down, seemingly free of repercussion.
There’s little to tout about a you-hit-my-guy-so-I’ll-hit-your-guy mentality, but the reality—more prevalent in 1976 than in the modern game—is that if pitchers are given the leeway to command the inner part of the plate without constraint, they frequently will. That command coming at the cost of a few hit batters is a built-in cost … until an opponent entices them to knock it off. Which was Jackson’s point.
From the Associated Press, June 13, 1976:
Kansas City — An angry Reggie Jackson declared Saturday that if Orioles pitchers don’t hit a Kansas City batter this Sunday, “then, by God, I’m walking off this team.”
“But first, I’m going to fight them all myself,” he said, gesturing toward the Royals locker room. “So I get whipped… So what?”
Jackson stalked back and forth in front of a row of silent, dejected Baltimore players who had just lost, 7-6, on national television, for their eighth setback in a row.
Jackson’s anger — evidently shared by many of his teammates as well as manager Earl Weaver — stemmed from Lee May’s being hit in the head by a pitch from Royals reliever Marty Pattin in the ninth inning.
May was hit in the arm but not hurt in the first inning by Steve Busby. He was the first batter up in the ninth following Jackson’s three-run homer and was struck behind the left ear by Pattin.
The veteran slugger was helped off the field and taken to a hospital for x-rays. His condition was not immediately known.
“If we don’t hit somebody tomorrow, I just won’t believe it,” Jackson said. Still pacing and talking in a low growl, he unraveled the tape which bandaged his injured right wrist and spat expletives.
“But, Reggie, you know Earl’s philosophy on these things,” said a teammate.
“The hell with his philosophy. They hit him in the first inning and the manager says, ‘let’s not do anything.’ And look what happened. It’s time to change that philosophy,” Jackson said.
Weaver was told in his office moments later that his philosophy had been placed under fire.
“I’m beginning to wonder myself,” said the Baltimore skipper, adding, “I have no more to say.”