40 years ago this month…Reggie gets his ass kicked.

reggie north swap blowsReggie Jackson had always gotten along with Bill North, and publicly praised the young center fielder several times for his fielding prowess. Sometime in mid-April, however, Bill failed to run hard to first on a routine ground-out. When he returned to the bench, Reggie harshly berated him in front of his teammates for not hustling. The seeds of The Fight were sown. 

“He had crossed me, in some way, a couple of times,” Bill recalls without going into detail. “I tried to set him up for a month.” He gave Reggie the silent treatment despite Jackson’s torrid start, and refused to talk to him on or off the field. He would not congratulate Reggie after home runs. During this period, North lifted his average above .200, swiped seventeen bases in the month of May alone, and played exceptional defense. By the day of The Fight, he was batting .228 and leading the league in stolen bases. Jackson remained hot, batting .390 with a league-leading 15 home runs, and the A’s were first in the A.L. West.

Finally, prior to a night game on June 5, in the locker room at Tiger Stadium, Bill made a remark that infuriated Reggie and ignited the brawl. The superstar, who was not yet dressed for the game, charged North and the two wrestled on the floor, in full view of teammates and sportswriters. Catcher Ray Fosse, pitcher Vida Blue and others were able to separate the two, only to have the combatants tangle again a few minutes later. “It wasn’t a regular clubhouse fight,” said an A’s teammate anonymously. “There was no backing off. They went at it hot and heavy — twice.” When the dust settled, the consensus was that North had won the fight. Jackson ended up with a bruised shoulder and battered ego. Fosse suffered a separated cervical disk in the melee and was out of action until late in the season. Both North and Jackson played against the Tigers that night. Bill went 2 for 3 with a double, run scored and RBI while Reggie went 0 for 4. For the rest of June, the powerful right fielder batted .197 with just three doubles, no home runs and four RBI.

Bill looks back upon the incident with much more humility than braggadocio. “I had extracted my ounce of retribution,” Bill admits, but believes the path chosen to settle their score was from youthful ignorance. The Fight and its aftermath enabled Bill and Reggie to move forward as teammates with renewed respect for each other. Today, North says, they maintain a genuine friendship. Reggie Jackson wrote this about Bill in his autobiography: “North was a feisty little guy with a hair-trigger temper, and one of the reasons he was such a winner on the field was because he had a lot of piss and vinegar in him.”

originally written by Tim Herlich.

Another trip to Orange County…Oakland A’s vs. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles by way of Fullerton and Santa Monica

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Me and 3 time World Series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom.

Long time readers of this blog know that my girlfriend and I make the hellish, bumper to bumper trip down the I-5 to Anaheim once or twice a year when the Athletics come to town. Since I live in Los Angeles, it’s difficult for me to make it to the Coliseum; and the “Big A” or whatever the hell they call it these days is my only opportunity of the year to see the “good guys” up close and personal.  A’s fans in past years seemingly turn out en masse, and this game was proven to be no different. The day started out on a high note as I met 3 time world series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom in the parking lot. He and his wife were charming and cordial. He got a kick out of it when I told him that announcers Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse always show him in the crowd and give him a little air time whenever the A’s play the Angels on television. (He lives in Southern California, so like me he only gets to see the A’s when they come to town twice a season.) I got an autograph and a photo, and after thanking him and shaking his hand, I noticed he was wearing a World Series ring. There is no doubt in my mind that those Oakland A’s teams from 1972, 73 and 74 were some of the greatest teams of all time!

Right away I had a bit of a problem with the Oakland lineup. The A’s were facing a left-hander in Hector Santiago, and their 8/9 hittersphoto 2 (19) were both lefties, each of which were batting .100 and .080, respectively. With Nick Punto batting in front of Reddick and Barton in the 7 spot, we were essentially GIVING AWAY 3 outs. Jesse Chavez gave up an RBI single and a homer to Albert Pujols, (his 496th) which were all the scoring the Angels did as they were shut down in the last 6 innings. Hector “who the fuck is this guy” Santiago had a shutout going until Oakland cut the lead in half with a Yoenis  Cespedes solo shot in the 4th. The game resumed and Angels fans were being their typical, boring selves. There was absolutely ZERO passion. They remained in a zombie like state until they started to do “the wave” in the 6th inning; completely ignoring the fact that the A’s were threatening to tie the game with runners on. Oakland fans were out numbered 3,000-1 and were undoubtedly louder and more into the outcome of the game.

The game was essentially dominated by the bullpens until the 9th. Whipping boy/super scrub Jim Johnson shut down the Halos in the 8th; and then this happened with a runner on and 1 out in the 9th:

The entire stadium deflated. The smug, “we all but have this in the bag” quietness turned into disbelief, verbal disappointment and booing. It was one of the MOST WONDERFUL moments I have EVER experienced at a ballpark.  I was beaming as Oakland fans high- fived each other on the way out of the stadium. We had proven who the KINGS OF THE WEST were once again.