On the field he watches his teammates hit, has good words for the ones like Ban-do and Rudi who use their top hands effectively, who have a theory of hitting, grumbles about the ones whose bats are lazy, who could be good hitters but won't work at it. He hits with the regulars and also with the reserves, tries to coach Summers, who is appreciative but says he just can't apply those fine points yet, he has to get his own feel for his stroke first. Jackson is impatient. He takes several cuts with the 50-ounce leaded bat, eliciting admiration, but also a hoot from Bando: "Reggie! If the lead flies out of that and hits me, I'm suing."
"You saw me," Jackson tells the interviewer. "I tried to talk to North again. He wouldn't talk to me." He turns on Garner, whose big-league career he may have saved half an hour before, and snaps, "Why don't you take batting practice with your helmet on? You have to wear it when you hit in a game don't you?" Garner gulps. First Baseman Pat Bourque, who knows the big man better, reaches over and touches Jackson's cheek, as if to remove a speck of dirt.
Jackson holds out his freshly bat-chafed hand to the interviewer. "Feel those calluses. They're rough. They're red. They're ready." But is he feeling too much of that old meanness maybe, to think linearly tonight and hit peas?
No. What Jackson does tonight is hit a 400-foot double, a 400-foot home run and a single to drive in five runs in a 7-4 last-inning victory. The A's are leading the league, leading it, as usual, by no more games than necessary, winning the ones that count, showing the class—conceivably the overconfidence—of the best team in baseball.
Teammates are coming up to their big gun in the dressing room after the game, calling him Buck in admiration.
"One thing you haven't asked me," Jackson says to the interviewer. "About my teammates." He goes on for 10 minutes, naked, skin tight, bursting, about how pitchers like Catfish Hunter and fielders and runners like Campy Campaneris and hitters like Gene Tenace keep games close for him, enable him to be great. He mentions nearly every man on the squad, North prominently. His portable tape recorder is playing the Jazz Crusaders' Scratch, easy post-game music to relax him. It is a great team he is on, he says. He feels it at the park. He feels it in the hotel. He is playing for a champion. And yes, as for himself, he thinks he could bat .400 for a season if he tried to go for average, and if everything went right some season he could hit 65, 70 home runs. Earlier he had carried a Baby Ruth bar and an Oh Henry! bar, representing the Babe and Aaron, around the clubhouse soliciting opinions as to what the candy bar that will doubtless be named after him ought to be called. The responses tended to be unprintable and he loved them.
And Bando spoke of what a highly developed hot dog Reggie was, how he'd gotten his antics refined now to the point that they were a part of him, no longer obnoxious, and maybe therefore he ought to pose for the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED next to a huge hot dog dressed in a full Oakland uniform. The interviewer noted that players polled around the league tended to say of his antics, "That's just Reggie."
Hearing that, Jackson allowed a flash of non-linear bemusement to cross his face. "Yeah," he said, looking proud still, but somewhat troubled. "I wonder what they meant by that?"