Thirty-five years ago, Reggie Jackson’s 3 home runs won Game 6 of the 1977 World Series
It took only three pitches for Reggie Jackson to beat the Dodgers and win Game 6 to capture the 1977 World Series title for the New York Yankees.
Three home runs in three at bats – each on the first pitch.
“I have never seen anything like that in a championship game situation,” said Dodger great Steve Garvey of that game 35 years ago on Oct. 18, 1977. “He beat us singlehandedly. And actually that’s exactly what he did. He knocked in five runs and we only scored four.”
Only one man before him – Babe Ruth in 1926 and again in 1928 – and one man since – Albert Pujols in 2011 – have ever hit three home runs in a World Series game. But no one did it quite like Jackson.
Following the 1976 season, the Yankees were coming off the wrong end of a World Series sweep against the Cincinnati Reds and Jackson was the fiery, high-profile, free agent slugger joining the team.
Among the many incidents throughout the season, Jackson and manager Billy Martin had gotten into a dugout scuffle at Fenway Park, caught by television cameras. Tension remained high in the Yankee clubhouse through the whole season.
“There were times during the season when I regretted signing with the Yankees,” said Jackson. “I’m human. Times got tough.”
In the World Series, the Yankees were facing the National League West Champion Dodgers, who were the first ballclub in baseball history to have four players hit 30 or more home runs in the same season: Garvey, Reggie Smith, Ron Cey and Dusty Baker.
But before the game, Jackson had a visit from a Yankee great. Joe DiMaggio was a Hall of Fame centerfielder and the hitting coach for the Athletics when Jackson played for Oakland in the late 1960s.
“He made a special trip into the clubhouse to shake my hand,” said Jackson. “It made me feel great.”
Great was an understatement. After walking on four straight pitches in the second inning, Jackson homered on the first pitch off Burt Hooton in the fourth, Elias Sosa in the fifth and knuckleballer Charlie Hough in the eighth inning. He drove in five runs and scored four.
“I’m no Babe Ruth,” said Jackson. “Right now, I just feel jubilation, relief, pride and joy. This was my greatest game as a Yankee.”
Although Jackson was humble in his statement, he was also right. He was no Ruth – he was better. Counting his homer in his last at bat of Game 5, he hit four home runs in four consecutive official at-bats. That was four homers in his last four swings of the Series.
He set an individual record for most home runs, runs scored and total bases in a World Series. He also tied records for total bases and runs scored in one game. He went 9-for-20 in the World Series, batting .450 and took home the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
In Game 6, it only took Jackson three swings to lead his team to victory – and it earned him the nickname “Mr. October.”
“That’s the greatest performance that I’ve ever seen in a Series,” said Dodgers manager and future Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda.
Samantha Carr is a freelance writer from Rochester, N.Y.