Celebrations, Pandemic Baseball

Mr. September: That Time When Reggie Swaggered His Way Into John Denny’s Doghouse

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.

In 1981, Reggie Jackson was already on edge from a number of brushback pitches he’d been forced to avoid a week earlier. So when, in Yankee Stadium, Cleveland Indians pitcher John Denny threw a fastball up and in, again making the New York star duck and cover, then compounded the frustration by striking him out two pitches later, it did not sit well with the star. Jackson ran toward Denny, clearing the benches, though though no punches were thrown. Jackson was carried from the fray by teammates Oscar Gamble and Bobby Brown.

Jackson exacted the best possible revenge in his next at-bat, taking Denny deep in the fourth inning with a man aboard to give New York a 6-1 advantage. That was only the beginning.

Reggie was already known for admiring his home runs, but he took things to the next level. He flung his bat and watched the ball, then pumped his fist in Denny’s direction before starting a slow trot around the bases. After rounding third he tipped his cap to the crowd.

Denny was not enthralled by this, glaring as Jackson circled the bases, then descending the mound to yell at his antagonist. Once Reggie crossed home plate, instead of turning for the dugout he spun and charged the mound for the second time on the day, this time pulling Denny to the ground, sparking a multiple-player fracas. Gamble and Brown again had to drag Jackson from the field, literally picking him up off the ground to do so. Never one to pass up attention, Jackson began clapping and inciting the fans as he was borne away.

He wasn’t done for the night, however. Moments later he reemerged from the dugout, this time with his jersey removed, to take another crack at the Indians. Cleveland catcher Ron Hassey took up the challenge but was intercepted by security guards, who maintained order.

Both Jackson and Denny were thrown out of the game.

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