Apparently, Jackson and Munson only needed to eye each other for a while before agreeing to share their turf. It helped when Steinbrenner had them for breakfast one day in spring training, without telling either that he had invited the other. It helped even more when Munson took time out to talk privately with Jackson before a recent game in Milwaukee.
" Munson and Wynn have been my biggest boosters," says Jackson. "Both have been supportive and understanding. When Thurman and I join forces, can't nobody stop us."
Detente with Martin has not come as easily. Jackson wants to bat fourth; with 282 career home runs and 829 RBIs, he feels he deserves the cleanup spot. Martin, however, prefers First Baseman Chris Chambliss hitting there, because Chambliss is less prone to strike out and because he handled the job so well last season, even winning the pennant with a bottom-of-the-ninth homer in the fifth game against Kansas City. Jackson also wants to play every day. "I've never sat down against nobody, never," he emphasizes. But with the Yankees, Jackson will occasionally be on the bench—if he is hurt, as he was slightly two weeks ago, or if Martin wants to get someone else into the lineup.
Jackson also may have overestimated the closeness of his relationship with Steinbrenner. True, Steinbrenner did make signing him the team's top priority in the free-agent scramble, although General Manager Gabe Paul preferred Infielder Bobby Grich, but Steinbrenner says, "Reggie does not understand that Billy and I want him to be second to the team. He wants to be 'it,' and he still can be, even bigger than he was in Oakland and Baltimore. But the team comes first."
Martin insists that he really does like Jackson, as a player and as a person. "You never say no to getting a Reggie Jackson," he says, "because he can help the team. I'd play Hitler and Mussolini if it would help us win. Reggie just has to understand the way I do things. On the field I call the shots. I'm going to win or lose my way. I might bat Reggie fourth when he's hot, but with our running game it's best to have a fourth-place hitter who does not strike out a lot."
Although Jackson obviously disagrees, he is smart enough not to argue the point. "It's important for me to get along with my boss," he says. "I'm going to have to take a certain amount. Well, I'll take it, but I won't eat it."
Martin would probably survive an open rift with Jackson, but he is at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with Steinbrenner, who, after all, owns the club. To his credit, Steinbrenner made the Yankees the team they are today. It is also to his credit that even though he may threaten to trade a Munson or a Nettles or fire Martin, he does not act on pique. At least, he hasn't so far.
"I'm intense and I'm a driver," Steinbrenner says. "I'm a firm believer in the old adage that if you're going to lead, lead. I've been involved in everything from the ushers to the dining room to the players' equipment bags. I raise hell if the rest rooms are dirty. But on the field I let Martin do things his way. The press wants Billy and me to be like North vs. South. Well, it isn't that way."
In fact, as long as Steinbrenner is satisfied to have his say and leave it at that, the two will get along fine. Martin does not like Steinbrenner meddling with his coaches and players, and he does not like the owner calling him after losses. "I think George understands the way I am," Martin says. "He wants to win just as much as I do, and as the owner he is entitled to ask questions. But he is impulsive. When he gets that way, I just tell him I disagree, that he's making a mistake, and he calms down. Sure, he makes me mad sometimes, really mad. But I'm not stupid. I'm closer to him than any other owner I've ever had. I've gone out with him, and he's fun to be with."
Because he was an assistant freshman football coach at Purdue, Steinbrenner puts great stock in his athletic instincts. He says, in fact, that he knew the Yankees would start the season slowly, because "they were not mentally right." But at the same time he respects Martin's ability to run the club, even if he would like to see Jackson batting third and Munson fourth. Steinbrenner buys, sells and trades the way he wants to. Martin must play with what Steinbrenner gives him, even if he does not always like it. He did not agree with the deal that sent reserve Infielder Sandy Alomar to Texas for two minor leaguers. He was glad when a trade fell through that would have brought Bill North and Mike Torrez from Oakland in exchange for Rivers and Ellis. And he concurs with Steinbrenner when the owner admits it was a mistake to let Reliever Grant Jackson go in the expansion draft. A trade Martin encouraged was the one that obtained Dent from Chicago, but even then he wished it could have been accomplished at the cost of some player other than Oscar Gamble.