Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reggie Jackson vs. Tom Seaver

August 4, 1985, 31 years ago today: Tom Seaver collects his 300th career win, for the Chicago White Sox, against the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium. The 40-year-old pitching master went the distance in a 4-1 South Siders victory over the Pinstripes.

I was there, along with 54,031 others, about half of whom were Yankee Fans, there to see Phil Rizzuto get his Monument Park Plaque and the retirement of his Number 10. The other half were Met fans, there to see their hero get Number 300.

That same day, at Anaheim Stadium outside Los Angeles, the California Angels beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5. Rod Carew of the Angels, approaching his 40th birthday, batting against his former team, collects his 3,000th hit. His Angels teammate, formr Yankee star Reggie Jackson, also 39, pinch-hits in the 8th inning, and grounds out.

Neither Seaver, nor Jackson, nor Carew was playing for the team that made him famous -- nor, in Jackson's case, for the team that made him the most famous.

*

"He is so good that blind people come to the park just to hear him pitch."

Reggie Jackson, the biggest Yankee star of his generation, said that about his contemporary, Tom Seaver, the greatest Met player of all time.

As Yogi Berra, Tom's manager on the Mets from 1972 to 1975, and a coach with the Yankees with Reggie from 1977 to 1981, supposedly said, "Good pitching will beat good hitting, and vice versa."

But, as yet another Yankees-Mets series is underway, I ask the question: How did Reginald Martinez Jackson actually do hitting against the pitching of George Thomas Seaver?

Seaver, always considered a thinking man's pitcher, has been quoted as saying, "In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics, you get shortsighted. If you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end." Nevertheless, there is a record of these encounters.

Note that this does not include in-season exhibition games like the Mayor's Trophy game. Nor does it include spring training.

Both men debuted in the major leagues in the 1967 season. Because they were in separate Leagues from then until 1983, the only way they could face each other was in the All-Star Game or the World Series.

July 24, 1973, All-Star Game, Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium, Kansas City: Seaver pitches the 8th inning. Jackson, then with the Oakland Athletics, bats against him in that inning, and hits a ground ball back to him, which he tosses to Ron Fairly, then playing 1st base. Reggie is 0-for-1 vs. Tom. National League over American League, 7-1.

October 16, 1973, World Series Game 3, Shea Stadium, New York: Seaver started for the Mets against Jackson's A's, and went 8 innings. He struck Jackson out looking in the 1st, struck him out swinging in the 4th, struck him out swinging again in the 6th (he had 12 strikeouts overall), and got him to fly out to center fielder Don Hahn in the 8th. Reggie would also ground out to 2nd against Tug McGraw in the 10th. 0-for-4, 3 strikeouts. The Mets won, 3-2 in 11 innings.

October 20, 1973, World Series Game 6, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum: Seaver went 7 innings. Jackson hit a double to left-center field off him in the 1st, driving in Joe Rudi. He hit another double to right-center off him in the 3rd, driving in Sal Bando. He grounded to 2nd baseman Felix Millan in the 5th. Batting against McGraw in the 8th, he singled and eventually scored. Against Seaver: 2-for-3, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs. A's over Mets, 3-1.
This picture, which isn't in very good condition,
is the only one I could find of them actually facing each other.
Given the uniforms they're wearing, it has to have been taken
during Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.

August 9, 1981, All-Star Game (delayed because of the strike), Cleveland Municipal Stadium: Seaver, now with the Cincinnati Reds, pitches the 2nd inning. Jackson bats against him once, and, as in the '73 Midsummer Classic, grounds back to him. He tosses to 1st baseman Pete Rose for the out. 0-for-1. NL over AL, 5-4.

June 6, 1984, Comiskey Park, Chicago: Seaver pitches a 4-hit shutout. He strikes Jackson out swinging in the 2nd and the 7th, and looking in the 5th. 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts. The White Sox beat the Angels, 4-0.

June 12, 1984, Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim: Seaver strikes Jackson out swinging in the 2nd and the 7th, and gets him to ground out to 2nd baseman Julio Cruz in the 5th. But this time, Seaver isn't so lucky: He pitches 8 strong innings, but walks Rod Carew to lead off the bottom of the 9th, and Tony LaRussa, not yet the "genius" he would become managing in Oakland, brings in reliever Al Jones, who blows it. It is Jackson who ties the score with an RBI single. 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts. The Angels beat the White Sox, 3-2, on an RBI single by Doug DeCinces in the 10th.

September 9, 1984, Comiskey Park: Seaver gets Jackson to fly to left fielder Jerry Hairston Sr. in the 2nd, ground to shortstop Scott Fletcher in the 4th, fly to right fielder Harold Baines in the 7th. and fly to center fielder Daryl Boston in the 9th. 0-for-4. The White Sox beat the Angels 8-2, as Seaver goes the distance.

September 15, 1984, Anaheim Stadium: In the 2nd, Tom gets Reggie to ground to 3rd baseman Roy Smalley Jr. But in the 4th, Reggie gets even: He blasts a 2-run homer. The Angels keep hitting, and Tom is chased in the 5th. 1-for-2, a HR, 2 RBIs. The Angels beat the White Sox 11-2.


June 14, 1985, Anaheim Stadium: Reggie reaches on an error by Cruz in the 1st, but Tom strikes him out looking in the 4th, and gets him to pop up to shortstop Ozzie Guillen (yes, that Ozzie Guillen) in the 7th. 0-for-3, a K. The White Sox beat the Angels 5-2.

September 19, 1985, Comiskey Park: Reggie draws a walk in the 2nd, singles in the 4th, grounds to 1st baseman Greg Walker in the 6th. The Angels knock Seaver out of the box in the 7th, and Reggie hits home runs in the 8th and the 9th, but those aren't off Seaver. 1-for-2, a walk. The Angels beat the White Sox 8-0.

September 24, 1985, Anaheim Stadium: Seaver strikes Jackson out looking in the 2nd, swinging in the 4th, swinging in the 6th, before leaving after 7. 0-for-3, 3 Ks. The White Sox beat the Angels 8-1.

June 9, 1986, Comiskey Park: Reggie draws a walk in the 1st and singles to center in the 4th, and Tom hits him with a pitch in the 6th -- almost certainly not intentional. 1-for-1, a walk, and hit by a pitch. The Angels beat the White Sox 3-0.

July 11, 1986, Fenway Park, Boston: By this point, Tom has been traded to the Boston Red Sox. Despite being a lefty, Reggie always did like hitting at Fenway. He took Tom deep in the 2nd. Tom struck him out looking in the 3rd. Reggie crushed another homer in the 6th, the Angels scored again in the 7th, and Tom was relieved so that he wouldn't have to face Reggie again. 2-for-3, 2 HRs, 2 RBIs, a K. The Angels beat the Red Sox 5-0.

July 27, 1986, Anaheim Stadium: Reggie draws a walk in the 1st, another in the 3rd, another in the 5th. Tom is relieved after 6. No official at-bats, 3 walks. The Angels beat the Red Sox 3-0.

Reggie Jackson, the defining Yankee of his generation, and Tom Seaver, the defining Met of that generation, faced each other 39 times, the first in the 1973 All-Star Game, the last in a Red Sox-Angels game in 1986. Aside from the possibility of spring training games (and I don't think the matchup ever happened in Florida in March), they never faced each other with Reggie in Yankee Pinstripes and Tom in Met Blue & Orange.

In official at-bats, Reggie went 7-for-33 against Tom, a mere .212 batting average. As you might imagine, Seaver struck him out plenty: 13 times, nearly twice as many strikeouts as hits.

But Tom also walked him 5 times, including 3 in their final appearance, showing that Tom, then approaching his 42nd birthday, had a lot less left than Reggie, a year and a half younger. Two weeks before that, Reggie had taken Tom deep twice and been hit with a pitch. (That was almost certainly an accident: Seaver was never known to hit someone on purpose, even after that kind of hitting against him.)

Of Reggie's 7 hits against Tom, 2 were doubles and 3 were homers, and he had 6 RBIs. On-base percentage, .333. Slugging percentage, .454. OPS, .787.

In other words, Tom pretty much handled Reggie as well as he handled most hitters: Very well.

On the other hand, Reggie pretty much did to Tom what he did to most pitchers: When he didn't make contact, it was bad; but when he did make contact, hoo, boy. 

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