As number forty-four strode to the batter's box, the sellout crowd rose to its feet as one, chanting "REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE." They came to witness the Yankees return to championship glory following a 14-year drought. But now they hoped to see something else. Reggie Jackson had already hit two home runs, and the fans thirsted for just one more.
As Reggie's drive arced high into the night sky, far over the center-field wall, and landed in the black bleachers, his legend was cemented. Jackson's historic three home runs off of three different Dodger pitchers on three consecutive pitches in the decisive sixth game of the World Series helped the Yankees claim their 21st title. October 18, 1977 was the date that Reggie Jackson became Mr. October.
Forty years later, the Yankees are pursuing their 28th championship, and Mr. October has had a hand in developing the organization's young stars. Following his retirement, the Hall of Famer became a Special Advisor to the team and has been a regular instructor during spring training. Aaron Judge is among the youngsters that Reggie has worked with.
"A gentle giant," Jackson said of Judge to ESPN writer Andrew Marchand during spring training in 2015. "A sweetheart. A nice young man. He has significant inner strength and confidence. He has a humble presence. He's got power like Stargell, McCovey, opposite-field power, which is the best power you can have. That allows you to wait on the ball."
"My dad talked about him all the time, 'Mr. October,'" Judge said. "Just getting a chance to meet him and talk about hitting, defense and even stuff off the field has been huge."
Jackson has known Judge since the Baby Bomber was 19 years old. He worked with Judge at every level of the minors, and continues to do so now that the 25-year-old rookie has become a fully-fledged major league star.
“I’ll trade my past for his future," Reggie told George A. King III of the New York Post in mid-June when Judge was leading the AL in all three triple crown categories.
Following Judge's well-publicized mid-season slump and high strikeout totals that carried into the postseason, Jackson remains confident that the right-fielder will continue to improve with experience.
“Players like Judge and Gary Sanchez, they don’t even have a thousand at-bats under their belt,” Jackson told Filip Bondy of the New York Times during the ALCS at Yankee Stadium this week. “When I got to this stage, I’d already had a lot more. I was ready.”
Mr. October has also taken an interest in Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez. He gave a private pep talk to Bird earlier this year when he was struggling at the plate and his average had dipped to .100.
"Just keep going," Bird told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media when asked about what the Hall of Famer told him. "It just happens. It's part of it. It's frustrating. I'm not going to lie. But I've got to get through it, keep working."
When Gary Sanchez broke the Yankees' single season home run record shared by Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada in September, Jackson tweeted, "Congrats Gary Sanchez record setting HR last night. Destined to become a great player. He and "Da Judge" what a combo in our future."
Twenty-four years after his enshrinement in Cooperstown, Reggie Jackson remains a fan and relishes his role as mentor. As the Yankees pursue their 28th World Series championship, Mr. October is watching.