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1977

Mr. October hits three homers in three swings

On October 18, 1977, in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in a row off of three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Only the great Babe Ruth had ever hit three homers in a single World Series game (and he did it twice, once in 1926 and once in 1928) —but he didn’t do it on consecutive pitches or even consecutive at-bats. Jackson’s amazing home-run streak helped the Yankees win the game and the series, the team’s first since 1962.

During his pre-game batting practice, Jackson was unstoppable: He stepped to the plate and immediately knocked three pitches high into Yankee Stadium’s third-tier seats. Then he smacked the next one hard into the rear wall of the right-field bleachers. Jackson kept on pounding homers into the stands—so many that that backup catcher Fran Healy was reminded of the old baseball adage that the better you hit in batting practice, the worse you hit when it counts. As a result, Healy later recalled, “I thought to myself, ‘Boy, is he gonna have a horseshit game.’”

But he didn’t. In the second inning, Dodger pitcher Burt Hooten managed to palm Jackson off with a walk, but on his next at-bat, in the fourth, the slugger nailed Hooten’s first pitch low and hard into the right-field bleachers–“a line drive,” Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Murray wrote, “that would have crossed state lines and gone through the side of a battleship on its way to the seats.” In the fifth, with two out and two on, Jackson treated reliever Elias Sosa’s first pitch the same way. And in the eighth, he emerged from the dugout to a standing ovation, reached down for pitcher Charlie Hough’s diving knuckleball, and sent it flying 450 feet into the center-field bleachers. It was, Murray wrote, a “booming Jack Nicklaus-type tee shot, high and far, the kind that pitchers wake up screaming in the middle of the night over.”

That last homer put the Yanks in the lead 8-3, and—in spite of the ubiquitous security guards and policemen in riot gear who lined the first- and third-base lines—the stadium was about to explode. It got so bad that Jackson had to come in from the outfield during the last inning and get a batting helmet to protect his head from the cherry bombs and firecrackers that the bleacher creatures were throwing onto the field. When the game ended, the field flooded with fans. They had a new hero: Reggie Jackson, now known as “Mr. October.”

In his 21-year career, Jackson hit 563 home runs and retired as the all-time leader in Series slugging, with a .755 average. And no one ever achieved what he did in 1977: three home runs in three swings, and five homers in all in the series. Still, Jackson was uncharacteristically modest. “Babe Ruth was great,” he said. “I’m just lucky.”

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