Reggie Jackson smiling in New York Yankees hat

Reggie Jackson, MLB Hall Of Famer, Opens Up About Racism In Early Career

Home / Sports / Reggie Jackson, MLB Hall Of Famer, Opens Up About Racism In Early Career

By Kelly Coffey-Behrens on June 21, 2024 at 1:00 PM EDT

Reggie Jackson, 78, born Reginald Martinez Jackson, is opening up about the racism he encountered as a young baseball player.

The former MLB player became one of the sport's most iconic figures and is best known for his time with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees.

On a recent visit back to Rickwood Field, where he once played in the minor leagues, Reggie Jackson let down his walls and opened up about the racism he endured during the start of his career.

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Reggie Jackson Is Reflecting Back On The Start Of His Career

Reggie Jackson joined MLB on Fox’s lineup during the San Francisco Giants-St. Louis Cardinals broadcast on Thursday night, where he got emotional recalling the racism he experienced during the minor leagues.

Alex Rodriguez asked the 78-year-old how emotional it was for him to be back at Rickwood Field, to which Jackson admitted, "Coming back here is not easy."

“The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled," he added. "Fortunately, I had a manager, and I had players on the team that helped me get through it. But I wouldn't wish it on anybody.”

As many MLB fans know, Jackson was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics (later moved to Oakland) in 1966. He made his MLB debut in 1967 and quickly became known for his powerful hitting.

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Reggie Jackson Admits To Experiencing Racism

The 78-year-old told the others, “People said to me, today I spoke, and I said, 'Do you think you're a better person? Do you think you won when you played here and conquered?' I said, you know, I would never want to do it again. I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, 'the n-gger can't eat here.' I would go to a hotel and they say the n-gger can't stay here."

"We went to Charlie Finley's country club for a welcome home dinner, and they pointed me out with the N-word, ‘He can’t come in here.' Finley marched the whole team out, finally they let me in there," Jackson added. "He said, 'We're going to go to the diner and eat hamburgers, we'll go where we're wanted.'"

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The Former MLB Player Had A Manager To Lean On

Luckily, Reggie Jackson said he had a friend in his manager then, who ensured the former MLB star always had food and a place to stay.

"Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnny McNamara that if I couldn't eat in the place nobody could eat, we'd get food to travel," Jackson said. "If I couldn't stay in the hotel, they'd drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay."

"I wouldn't wish it on anyone. At the same time, had it not been for my white friends, had it not been for a white manager... I would have never made it," he added. "I was too physically violent, I was ready to physically fight someone. I'd have got killed here because I'd have beat someone's a--, and you'd have saw me in an oak tree somewhere."

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After Jackson's emotional story, Rodriguez said, “We love you, Reg.” He then embraced Jackson with a hug.

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Making History In The MLB

Reggie Jackson earned the nickname "Mr. October" due to his clutch postseason hitting performances. He hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, solidifying his reputation as a postseason hero.

He later signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent in 1977, where he continued his success. Not only that, but he helped the Yankees win two World Series titles in 1977 and 1978.

Over his 21-season career, Jackson played for the Athletics (1967-1975, 1987), Baltimore Orioles (1976), Yankees (1977-1981), and California Angels (1982-1986). He was a 14-time All-Star and finished his career with 563 home runs, which was sixth on the all-time list at the time of his retirement.

Becoming A Hall Of Famer

Thanks to his successful MLB career, Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, which was his first year of eligibility.

After retiring as a player, Jackson has been involved in various roles within baseball, including coaching and front-office positions.

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