While I’m downstairs compiling notes and quotes from this Yankee loss, I thought I’d leave you with some audio of an emotional Reggie Jackson from earlier this afternoon.
Jackson talked for more than 20 minutes today about how the last few days have been very pensive for him since George Steinbrenner’s passing. He canceled public appearances at Tuesday’s All-Star Game (although he attended the game and sat in Artie Moreno’s box) and spent the last few days quietly with friends. In truth, Jackson said, he’d rather be elsewhere than Old-Timers’ Day.
“I’d rather not be here today,” he said. “I’d rather have passed.”
Jackson said he talked to club official who he respects during the week and that they convinced him to come anyway. In a well-delivered one-liner a few minutes after Jackson’s press conference ended, Brian Cashman joked that the slugger had no other choice. “It’s in his contract,” Cashman said.
Clearly, Jackson appeared more affected than the rest of the Old-Timers, who mostly shared memories of Steinbrenner. Players from the late 70s “Bronx Zoo” said their team made The Boss unruly in the 80s and early 90s. “In a way, I think the teams we had in the early and middle 70s spoiled him,” Graig Nettles said. “He could get on us and we could still perform. I think he tried that with some of the teams in the 80s and early 90s and those guys didn’t respond as well.”
Other players shared their own stories. Gene Michael said Steinbrenner mellowed after he fired Buck Showalter and hired Joe Torre. Roy White remembered the circus at Old-Timers’ Day, 1978, when Steinbrenner announced the team would bring back Billy Martin as manager in 1980, even though he had been canned five days earlier.
You can listen to the audio, but Jackson sounded different. He developed a close relationship with Steinbrenner when he was brought here and even after he was traded away to Anaheim. “There are players and owners that are tied to each other in sports,” Jackson said. “I’m tied to him and I’m proud of that.”
Jackson said the two last spoke on July 4th, The Boss’s 80th birthday. He said in recent months that phone conversations with Steinbrenner had been strong, talking Yankees and family.
Reggie understood Steinbrenner’s health had slipped but never expected what happened on Tuesday.
“The conversations were so good for so many months,” he said. “I was caught off-guard.”
For the rest of Jackson, you can listen to the audio here. Don’t miss around the nine-minute mark. He talks about Sheppard, who he compared to John Wooden, and even does a pretty decent Sheppard impression: