There were many who wondered why it took the A’s so long, but it was on this day in 2004 that the club retired Reggie Jackson’s number.
It was the number 9, of course, the number he wore when the A’s came west from Kansas City; as a rookie in K.C. he actually wore 31. Jackson wore 9 in Baltimore, too, after he’d been traded there a week before the 1976 season.
The number for which he is best known, 44, was one he took up in 1977 when he joined the Yankees, because 9 was Roger Maris’s number. Nine wasn’t retired when Jackson arrived, but it would be in 1984, and New York had Jackson take a different number. Hence 44.
He would wear that 44 with the Angels, too, for his five years in Anaheim and would wear 44 when he returned to the A’s for one final season in 1987 except for one day, when a group of his former teammates from the 1970s team was being honored.
At the time 9 was retired, it was the third players’ number ever so honored by Oakland and the first position player, following starter Catfish Hunter (27) and reliever Rollie Fingers (34).
Why it took 11 years for the A’s to honor Jackson after his 1993 induction into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown it hard to say, but he did wear 9 once when a group of his former teammates from the 1970s team was being honored.
Jackson earned his nickname, “Mr. October,” with the Yankees, but won more World Series rings with the A’s, three, than he did with the Yankees, two.
He still holds those 1972-73-74 World Series winners in Oakland in high regard. Last month, in talking with NBC Sports Bay Area, he flat-out said his A’s were better than his Yankees.
“That was the best team I played on,” he said. “We were the best team for an entire generation, from 1970, well into the 1980s.”
Those teams were building around pitching and defense, and in looking back, Jackson still marveled at the depth and quality of those teams.
“Until I left (in 1976), we were by far the best team,” he said. “When we had a two-run lead, it was over. I don’t mean to put anyone down. But the team that we had ... (left fielder Joe) Rudi didn’t make mistakes on the field. (Third baseman Sal) Bando didn’t make any mistakes on the field. Campy (shortstop Bert Campaneris) didn’t make any mistakes on the field.
“I f---ed up once in a while, making an error here and there, or start daydreaming and get picked off or something. (Second baseman) Dick Green was a tremendous defender who’d get a big hit every once in a while. (Dave) Duncan and (Gene) Tenace, the guys that were catching, were solid.
“But we had such accomplished pitching. When we scored and got a lead, whether it was Vida (Blue) or (Ken) Holtzman or Catfish, once Rollie stood up in the mother f---ing bullpen, the game was over. When he started playing catch down there, it was time to grab your hat and coat.”
No A’s player has worn 9 since Olmedo Saenz did it from 1999-2002. He was the last of 13 players to wear it following Jackson’s departure in 1976, joining Rich McKinney, Mike Adams, Joe Wallis, Mickey Klutts, Darryl Cias, Garry Hancock, Mark Wagner, Dan Meyer, Mike Gallego, Jamie Quirk, Junior Noboa and Ernie Young.
In all, the A’s have retired five numbers, reliever Dennis Eckersley and left fielder Rickey Henderson joining the other three. Starter Dave Stewart was to be the sixth this season, but before that happens, baseball has to return from its COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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