By Ray Negron
In 1976 Reggie Jackson played for the Baltimore Orioles. After that season he became a free agent. He also covered the World Series as a color commentator along with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell. During one of the broadcasts, Howard Cosell asked Reggie what would happen if he signed with the Yankees. Reggie responded only the way Reggie could, he said they would name a candy bar after him.
Well Reggie did sign with the Yankees. He had a crazy, turbulent, controversial, great season and the Yankees became World Champions for the first time in fifteen years. Reggie would hit five home runs in that series, three in game six and four on four consecutive pitches. It gave George Steinbrenner his first of seven world titles. Billy Martin his first title as a manager and Thurman Munson would give Reggie the nickname known around the world – “Mr October.”
After the season the food manufacturer Standard Brands created a candy bar that would come to be known as
“The Reggie Bar.” During that off season I would officially go to work for Mr October as his “aide de camp” or right hand man. The biggest responsibility that I had that winter was to work hand in hand with the advertising agency, Grey Advertising. I had to make sure that they had anything and everything that would be needed to film all the commercials and all of the print adds. That included all the uniforms and baseball equipment that Reggie would use. Pete Sheehy, the great equipment manager for the Yankees, was so helpful because he had done the same for Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle. Pete gave me everything and more so that there would be no mess ups during the shoots. Pete really made me look good in Reggie’s eyes. I was always so grateful to Pete and he would always give me his famous wink of an eye. I am thankful to Reggie’s Marketing Agent, Matt Merolla, for always believing in me, and at 84 is still going strong. Throughout Reggie’s five years with the Yankees, there were quite a few commercials including Panasonic, Volkswagen and Getty Gas and I coordinated all of them. Thanks to Reggie I developed a pretty good reputation in the coordination of baseball themed commercials and movies.
Before the 1978 season started, it was planned with the Yankees publicity and Marketing department that on opening day they would give “Reggie Bars” to every fan that walked into the Stadium.
The electricity was really in the air. It really got exciting when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris put up the World Championship flag. Now it was show time.
During games I would sit directly behind home plate with portable video equipment filming what would be used to show the players their at bats after the game. I will never forget how nuts the fans got when Reggie came to bat his first time up. The pitcher for the White Sox was the knuckle ball pitcher, Wilbur Wood. If you are any kind of a baseball fan then you would know that the last pitcher that Reggie faced in the 1977 series was Charlie Hough, another knuckle baller. You know what Mr October did to him.
With three balls and no strikes, Reggie hit Wilber Wood’s first pitch over the plate well over the center field fence. At that moment, the fans got delirious, they just went nuts and started to throw their Reggie Bars all over the field. It was literally raining Reggie bars! The fans were screaming, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” louder than during the World Series, if that’s even possible. I’m sorry that the fans didn’t get to taste the great tasting chocolate caramel flavored candy bar but at the same time the candy manufacturer could not have dreamed of such an incredible marketing scenario.
However, as Thurman Munson would say after the game, “When it comes to Mr October, nothing will ever surprise me!”
Additionally, Ray can be heard on weekends on IMPACT on ESPN Radio 1050am talking baseball and entertainment. His writes a weekly column for NY Sports Day, Newsmax And Baseball America. A powerful and inspirational speaker, he passionately shares his amazing journey, revealing his experience with the Bronx Bombers, special relationship with Steinbrenner and what it was like to hang around some of baseball’s greats. For more information about Ray please check out his website batboyhelps.com