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Larry Keith
May 02, 1977
As their rivals hoped, the Yankees got off to a bad start. But despite losing eight of nine they did not lose their poise, and that could mean a pennant
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May 02, 1977

They Kept Cool During A Cold Streak

As their rivals hoped, the Yankees got off to a bad start. But despite losing eight of nine they did not lose their poise, and that could mean a pennant

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Then Shortstop Fred Stanley became upset when he lost his starting job to Dent, who came from the White Sox just as New York was breaking camp.

With all of this going on, it was no wonder that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn refused to make the Yankees America's goodwill ambassadors to Cuba. It would not have been in the best interest of baseball—or international diplomacy.

It is also easy to understand why New York broke out of the gate like a dray horse once the regular season began. "Last year everybody came to camp with the common goal of winning, and it carried over into the season," says Outfielder Lou Piniella. "This spring we didn't get together, there were too many distractions. I could even see that a few players were complacent. I knew we wouldn't get off to a start as good as last year's."

Because the Yankees have everything in excess—pitching, hitting and ego—no one is quite sure whether they more closely resemble the 1972-74 Oakland A's or today's Philadelphia 76ers. In any case, their potential for success is no less than their potential for conflict.

Speculation about the likelihood of New York breaking apart from within has focused on Jackson. His explosive bat made him the prize of the free-agent draft—at least according to Steinbrenner, who plunked down $2.9 million to obtain him—but the new rightfielder is a paradox: within that manly body lies the sensitivity of a child. Jackson needs to be loved, openly and without reservation, and the Yankees are not a loving team. To earn your pinstripes, you must undergo a rite of passage.

Wynn realized this as soon as he arrived from Atlanta. "The players on this team like to get on one another," he says. "Reggie didn't understand that at first. I said if he laughed with them and took part, he'd get along better."

Despite Wynn's good advice, Jackson doubted for a while this spring that he would ever get along under such circumstances. Though he never let his teammates or the front office know it, he admitted to a couple of non-baseball acquaintances that his choice of the Yankees seemed a mistake. On a flight in Florida one day, Jackson asked a photographer where he was coming from, and when the photographer said he had just left the Dodger camp, Jackson said that maybe that's where he ought to be.

Although Jackson still has not become completely assimilated, he feels he is making progress. "In the spring there was a lot of give and a lot of take, but no melting together," he says. "It was uncomfortable for everybody. When the press started aggravating the situation, I thought it would have been better for everybody if I had not come at all. I knew the team didn't need the controversy. Besides, this was a great team before I got here. They don't need Reggie Jackson to win."

While conceding that "nobody has been openly antagonistic," Jackson still believes there are those who do not want him around. He has his doubts about one Yankee regular in particular, and he also is skeptical of Martin's feelings. On the other hand, despite an uneasy start, Jackson's relationship with Munson—which many observers thought would be New York's undoing—seems to be good.

"I've never had any problem with Reggie," Munson says. "I know he makes more money than me, but why should I be jealous? I'm happy in life. Being jealous of Reggie would be the most stupid thing in the world."

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