Good morning, it’s Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. On this date in 1867, the United States took possession of Alaska. I’m sure Vladimir Putin would gladly take it back in exchange for the $7.2 million Russia was paid for it 154 years ago — even in today’s dollars. Spanish Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, by contrast, never put Puerto Rico on the auction block, but Spain lost the island militarily when the U.S. flag was raised over the capital city of San Juan on Oct. 18, 1898. Whether that should be permanent is an issue still being debated.
Baseball aficionados also remember Oct. 18 as the day New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson hit three home runs with three consecutive swings in the 1977 World Series, earning his “Mr. October” moniker. I wrote about that performance, and its maestro, in this space eight years ago. Am I cribbing from my previous essay because I stayed up too late watching the Dodger-Braves game last night? Perhaps, but to baseball fans it’s a story worth retelling, as I’ll do in a moment. First, I’d direct you to our front page, which aggregates, as it does each day, an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors, including the following:
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Why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Could Pass This Month. Bill Scher lays out factors that point to passage by Halloween, including a key push supplied by Kyrsten Sinema.
RCP Takeaway. In the latest podcast episode, Elliot Ackerman, Sean Trende and Tom Bevan discuss election integrity.
2022: The Year of the MAGA Outsiders. Steve Cortes spotlights four candidates who intend to carry Donald Trump’s populist/nationalist message into races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Washington state.
Results Over Rhetoric: Biden’s Divisive Administration. Ronna McDaniel compares the president’s promises to unify the nation with actions that have inflamed divisions.
For Our Reductive Politics, It’s “Time to Die.” Luka Ladan has a bone to pick with critics of the James Bond franchise.
Confidence in Currency Is Crucial. At RealClearMarkets, Rob Smith points to the Roman Empire to demonstrate a key danger in monetary policy.
Educating Students About the Victims of Communism. At RealClearEducation, Mike Sabo highlights the past and present threats the ideology poses to free government.
Feminism: An Elite Ideology. At RealClear’s American Civics portal, Brenda M. Hafera argues that Kate Millett derailed the movement for women’s rights.
The End of the Irish War of Independence. At RealClearHistory, John Rodden and John Rossi revisit a forgotten — in some quarters, that is — tragedy that unfolded a century ago.
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Democrats are feeling antsy about President Biden’s relatively low job approval ratings, the Virginia gubernatorial race, and next year’s midterm elections. But the twist and turns in the baseball season 44 years ago, particularly surrounding New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson, underscore life’s redemptive possibilities.
The 1977 season was Jackson’s first with the “Bronx Bombers.” One of the earliest free agent stars, he’d been traded from the Oakland A’s to the Baltimore Orioles in midseason during 1976, and spurned the Orioles’ lowball offer to sign with New York that winter.
Before the new season started, Jackson got in trouble with his soon-to-be teammates. In a boastful interview with Sport magazine writer Robert Ward, Jackson proclaimed himself the Yanks’ new alpha male, to the point of gratuitously insulting the team’s captain, catcher Thurman Munson. “It all flows from me,” Jackson added. “I’m the straw that stirs the drink.”
There was a point to Jackson’s crowing: The famed franchise hadn’t won a World Series in 15 years and Jackson was proclaiming that he’d come to New York to change that. But the way he conveyed his intentions wasn’t how you win over new teammates.
Things would get worse in the Yanks’ clubhouse before they got better. In a nationally televised June 18 game in Fenway Park, Jackson broke slowly on a ball hit by Red Sox batter Jim Rice. Convinced Jackson had loafed on the play, Yankees manager Billy Martin humiliated his star by sending Paul Blair into replace him in right field with Rice still standing on second. Jackson and his manager nearly came to physical blows in the dugout. Among old-school baseball fans, Jackson was about as popular as Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy. But the president — not to mention Yankee fans everywhere — can take heart from what happened exactly four months later.
On Oct. 18, 1977, before the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jackson was feeling it in batting practice. Stepping into the hitting cage he knocked three consecutive pitches into Yankee Stadium’s third deck. As other players stopped what they were doing and watched, Jackson hit a fourth pitch deep into the right-field bleachers. This barrage continued until backup catcher Fran Healy reminded Jackson of the old baseball adage about not using up your best swings in practice. “I thought to myself,” Healy later recalled, “Boy, is he gonna have a horseshit game.”
Instead, Reggie put on a show for the ages. Until that night, only Babe Ruth had ever hit three homers in a single World Series game. (The Babe did it twice, in 1926 and 1928.)
But on this night, playing in the famed “House That Ruth Built,” Reggie Jackson would do it on three consecutive pitches off three different pitchers. His feat clinched the game and the Series, the team’s first title since 1962, and solidified Jackson’s reputation as a big-game performer.
He had stirred the drink, all right, hitting five homers in the six-game set with the Dodgers, earning the Series’ MVP award and helping reestablish another Yankees dynasty. In the aftermath, Jackson didn’t tempt the baseball gods. “Babe Ruth was great,” he said with uncharacteristic modesty. “I’m just lucky.”
Terry McAuliffe, call your speechwriters.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics