"Hey, Nietzsche!" he yells to teammate Jesus Alou, or so it sounds. "Let's see something! Look for the forkball!"
What is this! Can Jesus Alou's nickname possibly be Nietzsche?
"No. I called him Nich�. It's Spanish for soul brother." Jackson has a half-Latin father and a full Chicano ex-wife, he holds the modern Puerto Rican home-run record and, what with one thing and another, he is the rare mainland U.S.-born player who can converse in down-home terms with peers who are Latin. He is also fluent in unvarnished soul talk ("With all the niggers on this team, how come this dressing room got no pick?" he will cry, demanding an Afro-comb) and most of his best friends are white. But his pan-racialism, like most of his other characteristics, tends to make him more of an anomaly than one of the boys. When he started rooming with Chuck Dobson both of them got heat from teammates black and white.
One of the black A's Jackson wishes he communicated better with, he says, is Vida Blue, who is so disenchanted with the A's organization this year that he has announced his desire to change sports and play in the World Football League. In high school Blue was an ambidextrous quarterback. "I see a lot of me in Vida," Jackson says. "Finley hurt him. He took the little boy out of him. He did that to me, too, but I got it back. I love to play. I love to hit bullets. I mean I love to hit peas."
As player rep, big bat, the loudest voice in the clubhouse, Jackson stays in the thick of his team's turbulent affairs. But in speaking of his life he often comes to estrangement, to being alone.
There was the time early in 1970, his third full year with the A's, when after a big 47-homer season he held out for $50,000, incurred Finley's wrath, started slow, was benched by Finley and even was threatened with being sent to the minors. One night, after 13 games on the bench, he pinch-hit and delivered a grand-slam homer. As he crossed the plate he raised his fist in defiance toward Finley in his box.
Finley called a meeting in his office: Jackson surrounded by the owner, the coaches, the manager and the team captain, Sal Bando, who looks like Alan Arkin and is now noted for keeping things loose around the A's, for bringing Jackson down to earth with deft, good-natured kidding. But there was no kidding in that meeting.
"Finley had a public apology drawn up for me to sign," Jackson recalls. "I told him ain't no way. It was right what I did; I'd do it again. He said we were going to sit there till I signed it. Or I'd suffer the consequences. The commissioner was involved, he said. Nobody spoke up for me. I'd never been so alone, so alienated from people who I thought were my friends. I was so lost from companionship I cried. I was supposed to eat dinner with some people at nine o'clock, and I couldn't get out of there to meet them until two a.m. I never actually signed the apology, but I said I would. I'll never forget that. I'll never forgive."
And then there was the time in the '72 division-championship playoff with Detroit, when in the process of stealing home successfully, he felt something give in his left thigh. "I pulled a hamstring. Ran further and tore it. Little further and ruptured it. Little further and it was like someone went in there and ripped some muscle off the bone.
"Finley was the first one inside to see me. He was emotionally hurt. I think he gained a lot of respect for me that day as a ballplayer. But here I was in a World Series—the World Series. Everybody's watching. Every pitch is money. And I couldn't play. I couldn't put my underwear on. Had to lay 'em down on the floor and stand in 'em and pull 'em on."