Those who came to Anaheim Stadium Monday night for Reggie Jackson’s final Orange County appearance didn’t go home disappointed.
What 30,090 witnessed in a span of about 2 1/2 hours was a one-game capsule of Jackson’s 20-year major league career.
The Oakland Athletics’ designated hitter had a grand time for most of the evening, especially in the second inning, when the Angels stopped the game to pay tribute to the 41-year-old slugger, who has said this will be his final season.
The night built to a crescendo when Jackson homered in the top of the seventh inning to give the Athletics a 4-2 lead.
But it fizzled in the end, when Jackson struck out in the top of the ninth inning and the Athletics lost to the Angels, 6-4.
This was vintage Jackson. Either a home run or a strikeout.
“If we just could have won this one for the Gipper,” said Jackson, who was upstaged by Angel rookie Devon White. White hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to give the Angels the victory.
“It was so nice,” Jackson added. “Everyone was ready to go home in the seventh inning. It would have been perfect.”
But, just like his career, there was no perfect ending. Jackson has hit 563 career home runs but is hitting only .208 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs this season.
Reggie isn’t exactly going out in a blaze of glory, but, at least, Monday night had its moments.
The Angels stopped the game before Jackson’s first at-bat in the second inning to salute the former Angel.
He received a two-minute standing ovation, while the Anaheim Stadium message board, with background music provided by Billy Joel (“This is the Time”), entertained the fans with a brief highlight film of Jackson’s Angel career.
Reggie showed his appreciation by tipping his hat and bowing to the crowd. He was in his element, under the spotlight, at center stage.
Then, he nearly did what he does best--smack baseballs out of the park. He sent a Mike Witt pitch deep to center field before White flagged it down in front of the fence.
Five innings later, Jackson reached the bleachers when he lined a Witt pitch into the right-field seats for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead.
Once again, Jackson warmed to the standing ovation he received. He popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.
But, just a half inning later, the night came crumbling down for Jackson and the A’s, as White put the Angels in front for good. Jackson was left with the bitter taste of a loss and a strikeout in his final Anaheim Stadium at-bat.
Afterward, Reggie wasn’t in what you’d call an upbeat mood, but he did thank the Anaheim fans for their show of support.
“It was real nice,” Jackson said of the tribute. “It felt good, but it was definitely deflating when White hit the grand slam. I’ll be better off at the beach next year.”
Angel Manager Gene Mauch knows where Reggie will be in five years.
“If he retires in October, he’ll be in Cooperstown in five years--that’s automatic,” Mauch said. “I don’t imagine he really truly is looking forward (to retirement), but when it’s over, he’ll be relieved.”
Just like Mauch was when Reggie struck out in the ninth.
“You know he’s gonna hit a home run sometimes and sometimes he’s gonna strike out,” Mauch said.