Reggie Jackson claims A's 1970s dynasty better than his Yankees teams


Reggie Jackson built a Hall of Fame baseball career on hitting clutch home runs and speaking his mind. He’s now 73 years old, and nothing has changed.

That much was clear early in a 20-minute phone conversation the other night. After some small talk about his admiration for Herm Edwards, the football coach at Arizona State -- where Jackson accepted a football scholarship but became a baseball All-American -- Reggie spun into a monologue with such conviction it might surprise a few people.

The New York Yankees, with whom he won two World Series championships and earned the nickname “Mr. October,” were inferior to the Oakland A’s teams that won back-to-back-to back championships in the 1970s with Jackson as its megastar, according to the man himself.

“That was the best team I played on,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We were the best team for an entire generation, from 1970, well into the 1980s.”

NBC Sports California is scheduled to re-air six games from that era, two over the weekend and four more over the next nine days. Game 1 of the 1973 World Series against the New York Mets will be televised Tuesday night at 8 PT.

I reached out to Jackson hoping he’d share memories of playing in Oakland with fellow Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, as well as Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Joe Rudi, Rick Monday, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris and others.

Jackson previously has given due credit to those A’s teams -- one of two MLB clubs to achieve “three-peats” since 1953 -- but this time provided explanation.

“Until I left (in 1976), we were by far the best team,” he said. “When we had a two-run lead, it was over. I don’t mean to put anyone down. But the team that we had ... Rudi didn’t make mistakes on the field. Bando didn’t make any mistakes on the field. Campy didn’t make any mistakes on the field. I f---ed up once in a while, making an error here and there, or start daydreaming and get picked off or something. (Second baseman) Dick Green was a tremendous defender who’d get a big hit every once in a while. (Dave) Duncan and (Gene) Tenace, the guys that were catching, were solid.

“But we had such accomplished pitching. When we scored and got a lead, whether it was Vida or Holtzman or Catfish, once Rollie stood up in the mother f---ing bullpen, the game was over. When he started playing catch down there, it was time to grab your hat and coat.”

Those A’s teams were a monument to the importance of pitching and defense. Over 19 games, during which they posted a 12-7 record, they scored fewer than four runs 15 times. That’s the power of having two Cy Young award winners (Blue in ’71, Hunter in ’74) on the staff.

Without Reggie, who pulled his hamstring stealing home in the American League Championship Series, Oakland scored a total of 16 runs in taking a seven-game series over Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in ’72. They made 21 runs stand up in taking out the Mets in seven in ’73, with Jackson winning MVP honors. Sixteen runs were enough to take the ’74 Series in five over the Dodgers.

It seems absurd that a team could average 2.8 runs per game over three World Series and prevail in all three.

“Catfish and Holtzman and Vida were just spectacular as a threesome I don’t know who has been better than them on one team,” Jackson said. “The Mets were great, with (Jerry) Koosman, (Tom) Seaver and (Jon) Matlack. But our three were better. You could probably say Seaver was better than Catfish, overall, but not with the money down. Not in the big games.”

With the A’s down 3-2 in the Series against New York -- the only time they trailed in any of the three Series -- Hunter beat Seaver in Game 6, followed by Holtzman besting Matlack in Game 7, with the big blows being two-run bombs by Campaneris and Jackson.

All these years later, Reggie is most often identified with the Yankees -- he is on the payroll as a special adviser and makes regular trips to New York. The Yanks won two of the three World Series they played during his five seasons in pinstripes, and he was voted MVP of the ’77 Series.

There was ultimate success with both clubs, but only the A’s won three straight chips.

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“I dissect the Yankees teams differently, though, because me and Catfish were on the A’s and Yankees,” Jackson said. “Now, if you want to put us (hypothetically) on both teams, the A’s had way better pitching than the Yankees. The Yankees maybe had better overall players. The Yankees may have had a better infield, but the A’s, with me and Rudi and Rick Monday, had the better outfield.

“In ’75, we lost Catfish (to the Yankees in free agency) and still made it to the (ALCS) against the Red Sox. If we had not lost Catfish, we’d have won forever.”

Forever? Nah. But with six different teams winning the next eight World Series -- and two of those teams being the Yankees with Reggie and Catfish -- there is little doubt there would have been many more parades rolling through the streets of Oakland.

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