As a kid growing up in Baltimore, The Orioles were my heroes. Any opportunity to go to a game at Memorial Stadium was a special treat. Getting to meet an actual player was the greatest thing a kid could ask for. So that Saturday morning, July 24, 1976 when my Dad told me that Reggie Jackson was coming to our family store was going to be the best day ever.
Reggie showed up around 10am driving one of his shiny sports cars. He was in the middle of a great stretch, having hit home runs in 6 straight games. When he walked in the door I was so excited I could barely speak. He spent a half hour chatting with us about baseball and cars and Baltimore. When he was ready to head to the stadium for that day's double header against the Brewers, he asked if I wanted an autograph. I had brought a baseball book called the American League Red Book filled with pictures of American League superstars with me and I asked if he could sign his picture. He did and flipped through the book a bit more. Reggie then asked if he could take the book with him and get a few more players to sign their pictures as well. Needless to say, I said yes.
The Orioles played out the rest of the 1976 season finishing in 2nd place. Shortly after the end of the season, it appeared that Reggie would become a free agent, moving on to a big money contract in New York. I hadn't heard anything more about my book and my Dad was starting to think that the only thing we would have from that day at the store was a memory of meeting a legend.
A few weeks after the season ended, my Dad reached out to the Orioles asking about Reggie and the book. A week later, the book showed up in the mail. It had been signed by 55 American League players including Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan and other All Stars and future Hall of Famers. I was the luckiest 7 year old ever!
When Reggie left for New York and the hated Yankees, most Baltimore Oriole fans felt like he had betrayed Baltimore and many even stated that Reggie was a bad guy. But not me. I knew that Reggie was a man of his word. Watching him become the World Series hero in New York in 1977 and 1978, I wished that it had been for my Orioles. But I felt proud that I was able to spend that morning with him. The 7 year old in me still smiles when I think about Reggie. And I get to share my Book of Heroes with my kids as well.
Love that picture on the cover of the book! The Carlton Fisk 12th inning homerun in game 6 of the 1975 World Series! Probably the BEST baseball game I ever saw! What a lot of people forgot was that Bernie Carbo pinch hit 3 run homerun in the last of the eighth to tie the game when the Red Sox were behind 6 - 3! Just a fabulous game and Series. Too bad my Sox didn't win the Series but it was a great one.