It was late September, and the Dodgers’ season was slipping away.
For Ransom “Randy” Jackson, it had been a disappointing year. He was brought in to take over for the aging Jackie Robinson, but injuries had kept him on the bench for much of the 1957 season.
Called to the plate in Philadelphia, Jackson drilled the ball into the seats at Connie Mack Stadium for a three-run homer, only his second of the season. But it was enough to cement a spot in team history.
The last Brooklyn Dodger to hit a home run.
Jackson, who went west with the team the next season when the Dodgers arrived in L.A., died Wednesday at his home in Athens, Ga. He was 93, the oldest Dodger.
Decades passed before it ever dawned on Jackson that he’d become part of the franchise’s lore with the home run. And even then, it was only after his son heard it as a trivia question one day on “Good Morning America.”
“I did not know that myself till then,” Jackson told the Athens Banner-Herald.
Jackson arrived in Brooklyn just as Robinson’s career was winding down. He said he felt intimidated stepping in for such a legendary figure, a man who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier and whose physical skills were simply staggering.
In contrast, Jackson — 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds — described his skill set as “nothing spectacular.”
He’d spent six years with the Chicago Cubs, putting up solid numbers and twice being voted to the All-Star team. The year before coming to Brooklyn, he hit 21 homers, a personal best.
The media was waiting for him when he arrived in New York, the hired hand here to take over for Jackie.
“The media smelled blood and treated my competition with Jackie like it was a prize fight … Robby vs. Jackson, Ransom vs. Jackie or Jack vs. Jackson, pick your favorite headline,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer.” “There was no fight or feud, but it was entertaining reading.”
The two became tight friends as Robinson played out his final games in a city stung by the Dodgers’ decision to uproot the team and leave Brooklyn and Ebbets Field behind.
“It was a cozy little stadium where the fans were as entertaining as the players on the field,” Jackson said of the Brooklyn ballpark.
Ransom Joseph Jackson Jr. was born Feb. 10, 1926, in Little Rock, Ark. His father was in the cotton business and prospered until the stock market crash wiped him out.
Jackson described an idyllic childhood, fishing the Mississippi River, playing baseball with a rolled-up sock and in the evenings listening to the local minor league affiliate — the Little Rock Travelers — on the radio. In high school, he ran track and played on the golf team. Later, at Texas Christian University and then the University of Texas, he played football and baseball.
The following year, Chicago drafted Jackson and he played for the Cubs for six seasons before being traded to the Dodgers. He played one season in L.A. when the team — still minus a stadium — played at the Coliseum. He later played for Cleveland and had his final season in Chicago. He had 103 career home runs. Following his baseball career, Jackson opened a life insurance business.