In 26 years of publication, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S cover subjects have usually been very cooperative. But we owe a special debt of gratitude to the most obliging of them all, Yankee Rightfielder Reggie Jackson, the man on the front of this issue. To illustrate the cover story by William Nack (page 24), Photographer Walter Iooss Jr. followed Jackson around for a week and found him to be both photogenic and gracious. Jackson has always been something of a frankfurter, and Iooss noticed that he was adding a little extra relish last week. Just before a Sunday game against Kansas City at Yankee Stadium, Jackson wandered over to Iooss, who was positioned on the first-base side. "He asked me if there was anything else we needed," says Iooss, "so I told him, half-kiddingly, that we could use another home run, maybe two more. Reggie just nodded."
On Jackson's first at bat he hit Rich Gale's first pitch into the rightfield seats. In his second appearance he flied out to the warning track. As he passed Iooss on his way back to the dugout, Jackson apologized and promised to take Gale out of the park his next time up. However, Gale was removed from the game before Jackson got another chance at him. No matter. The first home run was all Iooss needed to capture the classic Jackson swat (see cover).
Jackson now has six SI covers—seven if you count his cameo on the 1977 Year in Sports issue. Reggie does. He has more solo appearances on the cover than any other baseball player. Pete Rose and Johnny Bench have seven covers apiece, but they shared several of theirs with other players.
Jackson has an almost uncanny sense of recall about each of his covers, starting with the first, on the July 7, 1969 issue. He was 23 then, playing his second full season for the Oakland A's. " Neil Leifer took that one," Jackson remembers. "It was my 27th home run, off Jim Kaat of the Twins and the second of three in a row. Ted Kubiak hit a homer just before I came up and Sal Bando hit one just after. I was really proud of that cover. I sent 10 copies to Gary Walker, a buddy of mine in Arizona."
Five years elapsed before Jackson appeared up front again, this time under the billing SUPERDUPERSTAR for the June 17, 1974 issue. "I think that's the first time anyone was ever called a superduperstar," says Jackson. " Fred Kaplan took the picture. It was a swing and a miss, but they liked it and used it."
Jackson appeared next on the Oct. 6, 1975 cover under the billing FOUR IN A ROW?, a reference to the A's try for a fourth straight pennant. "I'm not sure, but I think Heinz Kluetmeier shot that one. [Nobody's perfect; it was Rich Clarkson.] The picture shows me going into the dugout at Fenway Park before the game. I was a little concerned about that one because I was using Sal Bando's Louisville Slugger during batting practice, and that's the bat I'm carrying in the picture. I had a contract with Adirondack to use their bats then. I thought they'd get mad, but they didn't. They just kidded me about it."
Jackson went to bat for Adirondack in his next cover shot, for the Aug. 30, 1976 issue, as a Baltimore Oriole. "I remember asking if I could get the Adirondack bat in the picture because I figured I owed them one. Manny Millan took that one, and I remember we worked very hard on it. We were in Minnesota on a Monday night."
Jackson's May 2, 1977 cover caused him some grief. " Neil Leifer shot that one, too, but it was a very distracting time for me," he says. "The picture they used is almost the same one as the cover for 'SUPERDUPERSTAR,' a swing and a miss, only at a slightly different angle. People thought I was smiling in the picture, but it was a grimace rather than a smile." The billing on that last cover Was CAN REGGIE JACKSON FIND LOVE AND HAPPINESS IN NEW YORK? The Story in this issue finally answers the question.