As a kid, I was a big Reggie Jackson fan. My parents and siblings had lived in Berkeley when Reggie became a star with the A’s, we had lived in New York when Reggie was at the top of the baseball world with the Yankees, and 1981, we moved to Southern California just months before Reggie followed, going to the Angels, who played within walking distance of our house.
Reggie wore #44 his whole career. And for some reason, of course, the number 44 is sticking in my mind today. Perhaps because of someone whose dignity, intelligence, talent and perseverance earned him a place in history. Someone who will always be identified with the number 44.
Henry Louis Aaron doesn’t get the acclaim he deserves a lot of the time. He wasn’t as all around great as Willie Mays, as graceful as Roberto Clemente, as purely great a hitter as Ted Williams or knocking home runs out of entire ballparks like Mickey Mantle.
What he simply did was play the game, everyday, hard, brilliant, with an indescribable talent. He dealt with the built in racism of the era. He overcame death threats with quiet dignity. Under unimaginable pressure, he remained calm and collective. And in the end, he found his magic moment and earned his place in history. All while wearing the number 44.
Bloody hell, could I make this metaphor any more obvious?
The number 44. I always loved it, ever since I was a little kid. Reggie had a lot to do with it. But now I think of it with a much larger significance.