Jackson traded to Orioles prior to becoming a free agent

Written by: Craig Muder

In his first eight full seasons in the big leagues, Reggie Jackson had been named to six All-Star Games, led the American League in home runs twice and won the 1973 AL Most Valuable Player Award.

And there were also those three World Series rings from 1972-74.

But Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley was more concerned with Jackson’s future than his past. And with Reggie heading toward free agency following the 1976 season, Finley decided he would trade Jackson before his star had a chance to leave on his own.

On April 2, 1976, Finley took the first major step in dismantling his A’s dynasty when he traded Jackson and pitcher Ken Holtzman (along with minor league pitcher Bill VanBommell) to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell and Mike Torrez. Heading into the 1976 season, the A’s had won five straight AL West titles to go with their three Fall Classic crowns. But the new economic structure of baseball convinced Finley that he had to unload his talented veterans as quickly as possible.

Jackson helped the Orioles to a second-place finish in the AL East in 1976, hitting 27 home runs, driving in 91 runs and even stealing a career-best 28 bases. But Jackson left no doubt that he would explore the newly created free agent market following the season.

Jackson was courted by several teams, including the Expos – who reportedly offered the slugger a five-year deal with $5 million. But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner convinced Jackson that his future was in New York, and Reggie agreed to a five-year contract worth a little less than $3 million.

“I didn't come to New York to be a star,” Jackson said. “I brought my star with me.”

Over the next five seasons, Reggie would lead the Yankees to three AL pennants and two World Series titles. He was at his best in the postseason, hitting 12 home runs in eight postseason series in New York. His three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series clinched the World Series MVP, making Jackson the only player to win the World Series MVP honors for two different franchises following his 1973 honor with the A’s.

Jackson left the Yankees for the Angels via free agency following the 1981 season, playing five seasons for California before ending his career back in Oakland in 1987. He finished his career with 563 home runs and 1,702 RBI, earning 14 All-Star Game berths and five World Series rings.

“The thing about Reggie,” said A’s and Yankees teammate Catfish Hunter, “is that you know he’s going to produce.”

Jackson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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