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Tired of Swinging, Jackson Is Ready for Settling Down

Angel announcer Reggie Jackson, who gave up chasing fly balls three years ago, may now be ready to give up chasing, period.

Jackson, a longtime bachelor, says he wants to get settle down and possibly get married. And he has someone in mind. Her name is Inger--he asked that her last name not be used--and he has known her about 2 1/2 years.

But they’re not dating. Jackson, who used to carry a heavy bat, is now carrying a heavy heart.

The problem, Jackson says, is his reputation as a ladies’ man.

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“I’m having trouble convincing her I’m serious,” he said. “But I’ve really reached a stage in my life where I want to settle down.”

Jackson says his girlfriend--that’s what he calls her--hears stories.

“I can’t win,” he said. “If a girl comes up to me and I don’t talk to her, I’m rude. If I talk to her, then she tells her friends I was hitting on her. And these stories get around.”

Jackson, who wore No. 44, is 44.

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“It’s not chasing women that has kept me from getting married as much as chasing the dollar,” he said. “That’s how I’ve spent most of my time. I guess because I grew up poor, I’ve always been obsessed with piling up money and assets. Now I’m cutting back, selling things off.”

Jackson began collecting classic cars about the time he broke into the major leagues in 1967. As his collection grew--eventually to about 140 automobiles--he began opening car dealerships in Northern California.

Although 30 cars were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Berkeley two years ago, he still has about 100.

Jackson, who owns various other businesses and properties, suffered some financial losses in 1988 and ’89--not enough to put much of a dent in his finances, but enough to start him thinking.

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“It got to the point where I owned so much, it wasn’t manageable,” he said. “So I began selling. It will take about a year before I reach the point I want to.”

He said he hopes to trim his car collection down to about 25.

Jackson, who splits time between homes in Oakland and Newport Beach, also owns a home in Aspen, Colo., but it is for sale.

“I want to have the time to enjoy life,” he said.

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And to get married and have a family?

“Yes,” he said.

Jackson, in his first year as Channel 5’s Angel commentator, isn’t sure about coming back next season.

“First of all, I have to be invited back,” he said. “I think I’d like to come back. It keeps me close to baseball.”

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But, Jackson said, this season is getting long, especially with the Angels fading. And he’s also concerned about who his partner will be.

Jackson was particularly fond of Joe Torre, who left to become manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. When the Angels went from Detroit to Chicago last week, Jackson made a side trip to St. Louis to spend a day with Torre.

“Joe is a very close friend, and he was a great partner,” Jackson said. “He’s a baseball man. He understands the game. Like me, he has a feel for it. That’s important.

“Professional announcers doing baseball--announcers who never played the game--just don’t have the same feel. Al Michaels and Vin Scully are exceptions.”

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And new partner Paul Olden?

“I can work with Paul,” Jackson said. “No problem there. But I’d prefer someone who has played baseball.”

Early in the season, complaints of Jackson talking too much, sometimes on top of Torre, were being heard.

“Yes, I was talking too much,” he said. “Now, I’m trying to say more with fewer words.

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“I was aware of the criticism. I saw that column written by that gal (Paola Boivin of the Daily News). I didn’t get upset by that.

“Other people were telling me the same thing. I can take criticism, and I can learn from it.”

Jackson also said he’s aware that he and Olden, whose major league experience was two seasons as the Cleveland Indians’ radio announcer, have had some trouble adjusting.

“Because Paul’s background is radio, he would tend to talk too much for television,” Jackson said. “And then I would talk too much, too, and the result was some wordy telecasts.”

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Jackson sat in a lawn chair at the Dana Point Resort as he talked. He was there to tape new segments of “Greatest Sports Legends.” Jackson is the host of the show.

Skier Phil Mahre was the guest. Alex English was in the day before, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee would follow Mahre.

“Greatest Sports Legends,” a nationally syndicated show carried by Channel 7 in Los Angeles, will enter its 18th season next year.

“Reggie is an excellent host,” executive producer Burl Rotfeld said. “He comes prepared for each show, and his interviewing style is natural.”

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Add “Legends”: The idea for the show came to Rotfeld in 1970 as he sat in a Philadelphia-area bar-restaurant owned by his wife, Carole, and her family and listened to two patrons arguing about who was the better running back: Jim Brown or Steve Van Buren.

“I want to produce a show about ex-stars,” Rotfeld told his wife, who offered her full support.

CBS producer Tony Verna, a regular customer in the restaurant, was recruited as producer-director, and he brought in CBS colleague Hal Uplinger of Los Angeles. Verna was able to land Paul Hornung as host, and Hornung got Hugh McElhenny to agree to do a pilot.

Rotfeld rounded up five investors who chipped in $25,000 to shoot the pilot at Pebble Beach, but a laboratory in Hollywood accidentally destroyed much of the film. The owner of the lab lent Rotfeld $18,000 to reshoot it.

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It took Rotfeld 2 1/2 years to sell the pilot, but once he did, he was able--with Hornung’s help--to get such people as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Jesse Owens, Eddie Arcaro, Elgin Baylor and Bob Cousy as guests for the first series of shows.

It was four years before Rotfeld turned a profit, but then the money started coming in. Last year, he bought out his original five partners--each of whom invested $5,000--for $1.2 million.

Rotfeld said the show has succeeded because:

--He has kept the budget low, with a production cost of about $35,000 a program.

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--He has been able to get big-name hosts.

--He shoots the shows in resort settings that not only provide good backdrops but also make it more appealing for guests. Before the Dana Point Resort, La Costa was the site.

From “Greatest Sports Legends” came several spinoffs, and Rotfeld’s 34-year-old son, Steve, has his own production company. Both are also in the sports video business.

“I’ve been very lucky,” Rotfeld said. “I’ve not only done well financially but also gotten to meet and work with just about every big name in sports along the way. In the beginning, it was tough, but it’s turned out to be a dream come true.”

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TV-Radio Notes

Denver-based Bill Daniels, owner of the Prime Ticket Network, is slowly but surely becoming one of the most powerful men in sports television. This week, Roger Werner, respected ESPN president, left the ABC-owned company to head a new Daniels venture. Daniels earlier got John Severino away from ABC to become president of Prime Ticket, and a more recent defector was Bob Wheeler, ABC Sports’ outstanding publicity director. Wheeler holds a similar position with Daniels’ Texas-based Prime Network, which includes Prime Ticket and 15 other regional sports networks.


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