Reggie Jax is aware baseball won't come courting him for job

January 12, 1993|By Ross Newhan | Ross Newhan,Los Angeles Times

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Reggie Jackson was saying yesterday that he "didn't want to sell himself as a folk hero," but that the best part of his election to the Hall of Fame has been the response of friends and strangers.

"It's as if everyone from my generation feels a part of it and is sharing it with me," Jackson said.

"It's as if everyone I've met feels as if they have a piece of it. I always thought I understood what the Hall of Fame means, but now I know I didn't."

He would like to think it might also help place him in a major league front office as an adviser or consultant, but he realizes that's primarily for folk heroes who are white.

Appearing at a news conference sponsored by Upper Deck, the card and memorabilia company with which he works, Jackson described baseball's minority employment record at the front office level as pathetic. He said he has no illusions about his own hopes, knowing that he has two strikes against him.

The first, he said, is that he is black, and the second is that he is who he is, meaning: "Some people may think of Reggie Jackson as a loose cannon."

The first is probably enough.

There are now six minority managers in the major leagues, but nothing seems to change in the decision-making offices.

Two blacks, Bob Watson of the Houston Astros and Elaine Steward of the Boston Red Sox, are assistant general managers.

Another, Reggie Waller, is scouting director of the San Diego Padres.

A rainbow coalition? Not exactly.

While Reggie Jackson was discussing the situation, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was announcing in Dallas that he would call for a selective boycott of major league stadiums next season unless baseball implements a minority hiring program by opening day.

Jesse Jackson was to deliver the message to major league owners at their meeting today, but others have tried without success.

Among them was Wilver Stargell, the only player elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988. Stargell challenged baseball at the time of his induction to implement a minority hiring program in its front offices. It failed to get him a job or change the employment pattern.

Now the latest player elected to the Hall of Fame will take a cut or two, knowing that an industry that has yet to discipline Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott for her acknowledged racist and anti-Semitic statements is apparently without shame.

Reggie Jackson described the lingering Schott affair as a disgrace, but not really a surprise considering the ethnic jokes still told behind closed doors of the executive offices.

"The Hall of Fame is a wonderful platform," Jackson said, "but I also feel it should stand alone. I don't want to exploit the induction. I don't want to try and force something down people's throat. I could do that when I had a bat in my hand, but not now.

"I respect what people like Jesse Jackson and Hank Aaron are saying, but they have their styles and I have mine, and I don't want to taint the Hall of Fame."

His hope, Reggie Jackson said, will be to provide consistent reminders that there are blacks and other minorities available who deserve an opportunity.

"Please listen. Please give them a chance," Jackson said of his theme. "Who knows? If the San Diego Chargers had hired Kellen Winslow instead of Bobby Beathard, he might have done just as good a rebuilding job."

Jackson has always been a man for all sports, but anyone who has spent hours at his locker would testify that he has an instinct, intelligence and curiosity about baseball that transcends the field and would be a significant addition to any front office.

Some might think he would grab for power, but Jackson seemed to say yesterday he is happy with the opportunities provided by Upper Deck and would be interested only in an advisory position that allowed him to merge the two jobs.

"I've heard that the Yankees want to talk to me, but that's all I've heard," he said.

The Hall of Fame plaque will show Jackson in a Yankee cap, although he also played for the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and California Angels, and he plans to invite Angels owner Gene Autry to the induction ceremony.

The New York years, Jackson said, seemed to define his character as a player and personality, although his hope as a 1976 free agent was to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who called only after he had reached a handshake agreement with George Steinbrenner.

He will be the 35th Yankee inducted into the Hall of Fame. He will also be the first black Yankee, which tells you a lot about progress in baseball.

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