The Bronx Is Burning… With Bitterness.

Considering this story won’t really resonate with most of my loyal readers, I’ll attempt to keep it brief. However, the following exchange affected me so profoundly that I’d be remiss not to share.

Reggie Jackson is known in baseball as “Mr. October” for his clutch play in the most important month of the baseball season. He once hit three home runs in a World Series game… on three consecutive pitches. ESPN even made a mini-series about that team, the 1977 New York Yankees, entitled, “The Bronx Is Burning.”

Last Saturday, I traveled to the swamps of Secaucus, NJ for “Yanks For The Memories.” The event featured mostly former and a few current Yankees baseball players, and for nominal fees, you could meet the stars and obtain autographs and inscriptions on pre-purchased items. I went essentially to meet Jackson, who I look up to as a professional, although I also paid to meet Bucky Dent, Mel Stottlemyre, and David Wells.

I arrived at the event with about an hour left in the Jackson autograph session. My friends, including Cousin Tony, already met the Hall of Famer – and warned me about his terrible demeanor, especially compared with the other Yankees players. Nonetheless, I was unfazed, as I’m used to dealing with these types of people on a daily basis.

Fast forward to meeting Jackson. I wanted him to sign “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” underneath his famous cursive autograph. The quote was allegedly misattributed to him by a reporter in the late 70’s – although two sources lay the statement to Jackson at one point or another. The phrase, no pun intended, stirred up a controversy amongst the team, which though of it as overzealous.

Jackson refused to sign “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” or “The Bronx Is Burning” on the photo.

“I don’t want to be associated with that stuff,” the Hall of Famer told me. “A lot of people come up to me and say that they loved The Bronx Is Burning. But I was embaressed by it.”
He eventually relented to offering me two inscriptions for the price of one. So the photo reads: “To Ralph – Reggie Jackson, #44 – Mr. October.”

I offered up the original requests for two reasons: “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” is a quote I live my career by. Who doesn’t want to be “the man”… “the go-to-guy”… “Mr. Clutch”? 

Second, I wanted my autograph to be different, unique – something that carried more than just a monetary value.

But at the end of the day, Jackson satisfied my second reason. Now whenever I look back on the photo and experience, I’ll think about the man that I thought epitomized “swagger” – and how it was all manifested by the media. 

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