October’s Best

In Reggie Jackson’s autobiography, he reveals that he was so confident bounding toward home plate against knuckleballer Charlie Hough in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series that he considered warning Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda about what was about to transpire.

Having belted home runs in his previous two at bats, the Yankees slugger couldn’t wait to step into the batter’s box. And sure enough, he launched Hough’s first pitch nearly 500 feet into the center field bleachers for his third round-tripper of the game.

With that swing, “Mr. October” was officially christened.

That historic baseball now resides in Seth Swirsky’s collection and can be viewed on his website (www.seth.com). The Beverly Hills-based hobbyist, author and songwriter purchased the ball in a Christie’s auction in 1998.

“To me, owning the third home run ball is so much bigger than the first or second,” said Swirsky. “If he hadn’t hit the third home run, he wouldn’t have become known as Mr. October.”

Before the ball surfaced on the market, however, Jackson, who could never be accused of modesty, wrote all of the records that he broke that night on it. The No. 3 is also included to emphasize that it was the third home run ball.

“The story of the game is told to you right there on the ball,” said Swirsky.

Swirsky would love to own all three home run balls from that game, but he has been unable to track down the other two.

Steiner Sports sells a series of autographed photos from this famous game, including photos highlighting each of Jackson’s blasts. Chris Console, account director at Steiner Sports, says the pictures are the company’s best-selling Reggie items.

“Those photos reflect one of the most memorable performances in baseball history. That’s not only history for Yankees fans, but for baseball fans,” he said. “It was one of those games where it helped solidify Reggie’s reputation as Mr. October.”

Console added that items including the “Mr. October” inscription are also coveted.

“Another thing that people like to collect are products that have the athlete’s autograph and their nickname on them,” said Console.

Aside from the ball, no game-used items have surfaced from that storied contest. A 1977 Jackson Yankees jersey fetched a whopping $29,000 in a Mastro Auctions sale in July, but it was not worn during the World Series.

“You used to be able to get Reggie jerseys at $5,000 to $10,000,” said Jim Caravello, a longtime Yankees game-used collector and well-known expert on GameUsedUniverse.com.

Many of the game-used items from Game 6 in 1977 and the other World Series he participated in may be in Jackson’s personal collection. Jackson has sold some autographed and game-used items through his website, www.reggiejackson.com, and on eBay in recent years.

Caravello says bats used by Jackson while he was with the Yankees will fetch more than lumber used while he was with another team. A bat from 1977 or ’78 will fetch an additional premium.

“His Yankee bats are in high demand. You see those anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000,” Caravello said. “Early ’80s bats, you should be able to find in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.”

Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly lists autographed Jackson photos and balls at $75 each.

Levi Bleam, owner of 707 Sportscards Ltd. in Plumsteadville, Pa., says that Jackson cards are not highly sought-after compared to other Hall of Famers.

“His rookie is his most popular card. There’s nothing else that compares to that,” Bleam said.

Jackson made his mainstream cardboard debut in the 1969 Topps set (#260). Poor centering (left to right), print defects and a lack of visual appeal due to faint coloring hamper this card’s collectibility.

Of the 2,897 Jackson rookies that have been submitted to PSA (as of press time), just one has been deemed a PSA 10. There are 28 PSA 9s — one of which fetched $5,415.35 in a Memory Lane auction in August 2005.

Another notable Reggie card is his 1977 Topps proof. This single depicts Jackson in an Orioles uniform, while the regular issue card showcases him in airbrushed Yankees gear. It has been reported that Keith Olbermann paid more than $6,000 for one of these in a 2004 eBay auction.

Despite his nickname, sales of Jackson cards do not increase dramatically in October, according to Bleam. Console has had a similar experience.

“Sometimes, if the Yankees are in the thick of the playoffs, you may see a bit of a spike because people are thinking of all the great Yankees moments,” Console said.

And how can you reminisce about great Yankee performances without discussing Reggie’s three-homer game? It was a power display that Lasorda reportedly told Reggie was the single greatest performance he had ever seen.

And Mr. October, with his typical lack of modesty, would likely agree.

 

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