NEW YORK — In Anaheim, he's a 40-year-old part-time designated hitter with a .255 batting average. He lost the eye of the spotlight months ago, relinquishing it to a younger player named Wally. This straw hardly stirs any drinks anymore.
But in New York, Reggie is still Reggie.
Reggie Jackson returned to Yankee Stadium Monday and was greeted, if not with open arms, then with open mikes. The New York media, which christened him Mr. October and Jax years ago, turned out in waves to check out for themselves those dispatches they'd been hearing from the West Coast.
Is Reggie Jackson nearly through as an Angel?
Yes, it's true, Reggie confirmed. Yes, he did meet with Angel General Manager Mike Port last home stand. Yes, Port told Reggie he wasn't in the Angels' 1987 plans. Yes, he wants to play another season, maybe with Oakland, maybe with--hold those presses--the Yankees.
Jackson said it all, twice, for the benefit of two separate press conferences--a massive one in the visitors' clubhouse and a scaled-down version later alongside the batting cage.
"The Angels don't want me to play for them," Jackson said. "That's a fact of life. Let's not be jerks about it; let's adjust to it. I'm disappointed, but I'm not gonna cry about it."
Jackson talked of the future, of the possibility of returning to play a final season with the A's ("My No. 1 choice, my home") or the Yankees ("I never say never"). But, he said, he wouldn't go begging.
"Everybody has to play where they're wanted," he said. "If somebody says 'You can do this, you can do that for us,' I'm gonna play. But I don't want to go out wandering, looking for a job.
"My main concern is preserving my dignity. Going out gracefully is more important than wringing out the rag of my ability. I'd like to have a more gracious goodby, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
This was a continuation of the dialogue Jackson began during last home stand and elaborated upon in Baltimore. Friday, Jackson held an off-the-record session with Angel beat writers, in which he was critical of Angel management, including Port and Manager Gene Mauch. Sunday, he went on the record about not wanting the Angels to retire his jersey.
And then Reggie came to New York--and New York came to Reggie.
"You could see it coming," said Angel third baseman Doug DeCinces.
Port, who took in Jackson's second press conference from the vantage point of the visitors' dugout, seems to be tiring of Jackson's outbursts. Looking tense, Port was typically evasive when questioned about the situation.
"I will not discuss anything on an individualized basis," Port said.
"I don't want to."
Will you give Jackson a job next year?
"I will not discuss any individual players."
Does criticism of Angel management by the team's best-known player at this stage of the season concern you?
"I wouldn't dignify (the criticism) with a response. What can be said, from a team perspective, can be read in the papers every morning: The California Angels are leading the division and we're doing the best we can to take it the rest of the way."
If such criticism is a disruptive factor, would you take action to stop it?
"If it's disruptive to what we're trying to get done, if it's an obstacle, yes, we'd try to deal with it. If it's something to be moved out of the way, we'd take the proper and necessary action."
Port finally tried to inject some humor into the interview. "Couldn't we discuss grain production in Soviet Georgia?" he asked.