One of the more memorable moments of the 1974 World Series occurred after all the action on the field had concluded. The Oakland A's were gathered in a moment of high solemnity: the presentation of their third straight championship trophy by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Suddenly, before the assembled reporters, TV cameramen and assorted hangers-on, Reggie Jackson uncorked a bottle of champagne, slopped its contents all over the astonished commissioner—and kissed him on the cheek for good measure.
It was a delicious scene: executive pomposity receiving its just deserts. But it was not, apparently, spontaneous. We are now told, by Jackson himself, that he had arranged the gag with none other than his persistent adversary, Charles O. Finley, owner of the A's and baseball's most notorious, vociferous Kuhnophobe. This is one of many anecdotes in Reggie: A Season with a Superstar (Playboy Press, $9.50), by Jackson with Bill Libby. The book is more or less a diary of the '74 season, taped by Jackson and shaped into book form by Libby, a veteran at such matters. It's a sports book of the new style, laced with four-letter words and coy references to Jackson's amorous conquests and rather transparently determined efforts to be controversial, but it's fun all the same.
For two reasons. One is Jackson himself, who is by now recognized as one of the most attractive, intelligent and outspoken people in sport. The other is the A's, a volatile combination of personalities made all the more so by the maddening yet somehow entertaining presence of Charlie Finley, the Mahatma of Megalomania.
Nineteen seventy-four was a good season for A's-watching. It began with the general confusion caused by bitter salary arbitrations and the replacement of Dick Williams as manager by Alvin Dark; it continued with a running series of locker-room fights; it ended with still another blow to the skeptics, a thumping conquest of the Dodgers.
October 5, 1975
Jackson is a sharp observer, and a lot of his inside poop will be grist for the Hot Stove League. At times his self-congratulations get wearisome, but they are balanced by his generous assessments of teammates and opponents, even by a few kind words for Finley and Dark. I was a Jackson fan before I read the book, and I remain one; in the world of sports books, that's something of a compliment.