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Jackson can afford to toss such extravagant figures about, because he is expected to charge a lot more than a cool million for his services. But he has no idea what the going rate will be. (One well-informed agent estimates that rock bottom for Jackson will be a five-year contract worth $1.5 million.) "Oh, you daydream about these things," says Reggie. "This will be the first time an every-day player has gone on the open market. The only others have been Catfish and Messersmith, and they're both pitchers. I don't think they're fair examples of what will happen."
Anyhow, Jackson insists, money will not be the principal consideration when it comes time to find a new job. What is most important is finding a team and a place that will fit his "life-style." This may sound a bit cynical to those who regard modern ballplayers as venal, but Jackson has filthy lucre well down on his list of preferences. "Suppose that one team offers me $1.7 million and another team $2 million." he says, "and that the higher offer comes from a team in Georgia and the lower offer from a team in my own backyard in the San Francisco Bay Area. Me, I'm gonna want to play in my backyard. A couple of hundred thousand dollars isn't gonna make that much difference when you're talking about those figures. You couldn't spend it in a lifetime anyway.
"When I talk about life-style, I mean I want to go to a place with a liberal attitude. I don't like sectarian living—I think that's the word. I don't necessarily mean segregated living, I mean certain people living among themselves: Jews here, Poles there, blacks over there. I'm not interested in playing in any town that has that. I know I'm not crazy about playing in the South, and the Midwest would be impractical for me because all of my business interests are either on the West Coast or in the East. I've got a lot of friends in California, and that means a great deal to me. There are five teams there to choose from, although I guess you'd have to rule out Oakland because Charlie Finley doesn't seem to want me.
"But there are other considerations. I'm not sure I'd fit in with teams like the Mets or the Dodgers that emphasize organization over individual personality. They may not even want someone like me. But I could see myself with a team like the Phillies, because with all their stars—the Schmidts, the Luzinskis—there wouldn't be so much pressure on me. And I'd like to be on a contender and a team that draws well. I've never been on a team that drew well. I like living near the ocean. I like getting involved in a community, doing youth work. I've taken so much out of this game that it weighs on my mind. I'd like to give a little back to the town where I play. I want to settle down, raise a family, be part of things."
When the time comes to make a choice, Jackson will huddle with his close friend and business associate, Gary Walker, who also acts as his agent. Walker, a real-estate developer who lives near Phoenix, will not fly, so chances are that the bidders will have to come to him. Jackson wants Walker to get the facts and the "feeling" of the offers. "I trust him to do what's best for me financially, emotionally, psychologically, theologically," Reggie says. "He has a tremendous way of looking inside of me and seeing what's-right for me." When Walker makes his recommendation, Jackson will visit the chosen city, if it happens to be one with which he is unfamiliar. The final decision, he says, will be his alone.
In the meantime, he will explore the possibility of signing with the Orioles, although not many people in Baltimore hold out much hope for his staying there. On a stroll through the lobby of the Leamington last Thursday, Harper, the genial tormentor, pointed out to Jackson that there were photographs of all the Oriole stars except Reggie on the wall behind the registration desk. "That's probably because they know I'm just passing through," said Jackson.
Indeed, Baltimore seems an imperfect setting for the vaunted Jackson life-style. He is more subdued there than he was in the Bay Area, possibly because his mother and sisters also live in the town. To hear him tell it, his evenings are largely spent with his family, dandling nieces and nephews on his knees and eating home-cooked meals. "I was extremely visible in Oakland," Jackson says. "Everybody knew me. I patronized the same stores, service stations, restaurants. People knew where I was every hour." In June a fire caused about $70,000 in damage to the condominium Jackson owns in Oakland. Among the items lost were World Series mementos and much of Jackson's wardrobe. "It kicked hell out of me mentally for about three weeks," he says, and it underlined the sense of estrangement he feels in Baltimore.
"This is a very conservative town," says Oriole Catcher Dave Duncan, once Jackson's teammate in Oakland. "Anytime you're traded, there's an adjustment you have to make. Baltimore's a particularly tough adjustment, because it just isn't the type of town Reggie's used to."
Still, Jackson has little quarrel with the Oriole management, particularly after having worked for the parsimonious and quarrelsome Finley, a man with whom he was almost perpetually at odds. "The management here will do almost anything for you," he says, almost with surprise. "Now I find it hard to believe the things we had to deal with under Finley. But he's the most strong-willed person I've ever known. Even if he loses everybody—Rudi, Fingers, all of them—he'll probably still land on his feet."
Jackson will assuredly land on his. Aside from an occasional lapse—he lost a fly ball in the lights at Minnesota last Wednesday—he is playing some of the best ball of his career. And though he may be a transient, he is also winning over the Oriole fans and players. "If we'd had him all season," says Manager Earl Weaver, "there's no question we'd be five games closer to first place."