Reggie Jackson has never been one to let a moment of drama pass him by. One arose Monday night in Anaheim Stadium, and Jackson seized it. Then, just when he thought the night was his, Devon White stepped up to the plate and stole a scene from one of baseball's master scene-stealers.
White's seventh-inning grand slam erased the lead Jackson gave the Oakland Athletics with a crowd-pleasing homer of his own, and gave the Angels a 6-4 victory before a crowd of 30,090. The victory pushes the Angels back over the .500 mark (60-59) and keeps them within 5 1/2 games of the division-leading Minnesota Twins in the American League West.
Jackson's two-run homer off Angel starter Mike Witt in the top of the seventh gave the A's a 4-2 lead and provided another moment for the memory books in what was presumably Jackson's last playing appearance in Anaheim Stadium. It would have been a perfect ending. Perhaps too perfect.
It was rewritten by a somewhat unlikely source. White came up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh having just one hit in his previous 23 at-bats. He broke out in a big way, driving a pitch from Oakland reliever Dave Leiper over the left-field fence and grand-slamming Jackson out of center stage.
The homer made White the first Angel rookie to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in one season, and gave the Angels a game they considered precious.
"We needed this game," White said. "Reggie kind of stole the show for a while. (But) that got us a little stirred up and we came back."
A one-out walk to Bob Boone opened the Angels rally in the seventh. Brian Downing followed with a single to left that chased A's starter Jose Rijo. He was replaced by Leiper, who walked pinch-hitter George Hendrick to load the bases for White.
White's grand slam stirred a big reaction from the same crowd that had called Jackson out for a curtain call just minutes before. But unlike Jackson, White is unaccustommed to taking bows. It took a little urging from his teammates, but he obliged.
"They didn't have to push me out of the dugout, but I'm not that kind of guy," White said. "But Wally (Joyner) stepped out of the box, and I didn't want to hold the game up."
Before the game, Jackson seemed to prefer downplaying the significance of his final bow at the site of the first and 500th home runs of his career and his emotions regarding retirement.
"It's not like this is a surprise," he said. "Nobody told me yesterday that this was it. Secretariat had to go out. Seattle Slew quit. John Henry had to shut it down. It happens to everyone."
The Angels honored Jackson in a brief tribute before his first at-bat, showing a series of Reggie highlights on the scoreboard screen and blaring Billy Joel's "This Is The Time" over the public-address system. Then Jackson stepped to the plate and drove a Witt pitch deep to right-center, sending center fielder White to the wall to make the catch.
The rest of the game lacked the drama provided by White and Jackson. The A's took a 1-0 lead in the third inning after Downing appeared to lose a sinking line drive off the bat of Alfredo Griffin in the lights, and had the ball sail over his head. By the time White could retrieve it near the left-field warning track, Griffin had a triple. He scored on Tony Bernazard's ground ball to second, and the A's had yet another gift run in a series in which those were abundant.
This time the A's returned the favor. After a one-out walk to Joyner in the bottom of the fourth, Bill Buckner hit a blooper to left that Jose Canseco charged then overran for an error that allowed Joyner to score from first. Buckner gimped into second on the error, went to third on Doug DeCinces' infield out, and scored on Dick Schofield's soft single to left, giving the Angels a 2-1 lead.
The A's tied it in the sixth when Witt gave up a leadoff walk to Bernazard, a sharp single to right by Mike Davis and a sacrifice fly by Canseco.
Angel Notes Angel Manager Gene Mauch was asked before the game if he thinks Reggie Jackson was feeling melancholy about the prospect of retiring. "I don't imagine he really, truly looks forward to it," he said, "but when it's over, he'll be relieved." Mauch paused for a moment and added with a smile: "I don't know what I'm talking about Reggie for. He can handle that quite nicely." . . . Catcher Darrell Miller was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday after sufferring a broken middle finger in his right hand when he was hit by a foul tip in the seventh inning of Sunday's loss to the A's. Miller's place on the roster was filled by Jack Fimple, who, after being called up from the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Edmonton, made it to Anaheim Stadium just in time to be in uniform for the start of Monday night's game. Fimple hit .292 with 15 doubles, 2 home runs and 24 runs batted in during 71 games for Edmonton. . . . Time Warp Dept.: It was one year ago Monday that the Angels beat the A's, 7-3, in Anaheim to complete a sweep of a three-game series and take a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League West.