Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Delayed live-blog: Reggie Jackson’s evil hip

[mlbvideo id=”28130223″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

By Jon Weisman

A video of horror rests above, 254 seconds chronicling how the shift of Reggie Jackson’s hip would shift the direction of the 1978 World Series that the Dodgers led 2-1 in games and 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game 4.

Let’s Zapruder this sucker. Hit play and read on …

  • 0:00 It’s the bottom of the sixth in Game 3. Thurman Munson is on second base after advancing on Jackson’s RBI single, which just scored Roy White to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1.
  • 0:10 Lou Piniella hits a low liner at shortstop Bill Russell. The ball caroms off Russell’s glove onto the ground in front of him.
  • 0:12 Russell picks up the ball, steps on second base to force Jackson and then throws to first. “They’re gonna get two,” shouts announcer Tony Kubek.
  • 0:14 The ball never makes it past Jackson, turning — in mid-air, mind you — up the first-base line and away from a stunned Steve Garvey, who has to give chase.
  • 0:16 Kubek: “Oh, he threw it away! Did it hit Reggie?”
  • 0:20 Having rounded third, Munson dashes home from third base with the Yankees’ second run.
  • 0:22 Kubek: “There’s a lot of confusion. The ball hit Russell’s glove. It then hit the ground …”
  • 0:30 The play hasn’t been dead for even 10 seconds, and already Tommy Lasorda is in the middle of the infield to argue with the umpires, first American League umpire Joe Brinkman and then National League ump Frank Pulli.
  • 0:38 Kubek: “It is a complicated play because Reggie is out, out of the play, and yet the ball might have hit him, scooted away, allowing Munson to score.”
  • 0:42 Needing no time to warm up his anger, Lasorda is gesturing furiously to the umps.
  • 0:56 The first replay shows Russell barehand the ball after he dropped it and step on second, with Munson not two feet away from him. What I never realized before was how close Russell to tagging Munson just off second base. If he had done so, that would have ended the inning without a throw. Of course, there was no reason for Russell to think his throw wouldn’t make it to first.
  • Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.08.13 PM1:04 The replay shows the curve of Jackson’s body as the ball strikes him. Note that Russell threw to Garvey’s backhand side. A throw to his glove side, and Jackson wouldn’t have gotten near.
  • 1:06 Joe Garagiola: “Jackson is thoroughly confused He’s still at first base. He doesn’t know what to do.
  • 1:08 Garvey points twice at Jackson immediately after the ricochet of the ball, clearly thinking that Jackson was at fault.
  • 1:16 Second replay, where you first might get the idea that Russell dropped the ball on purpose.
  • 1:34 Garagiola: “They’ve got a meeting out there. It looks like an election, there’s so many people between first and second.”
  • Kubek: “It’s a summit meeting out there, is what they’ve got. Almost every Dodger is around there, and all the umpires.”
  • 1:46 Kubek: “I’ll tell you what he did do it — he let it hit him purposefully. I’ve got to believe — I don’t know what they’re goona do about it — but if that is ruled intent, I think, we’ll have to check the rule, I think they could rule that out.”
  • 1:53: Lasorda update: Still angry.
  • 2:01 Garagiola “He was leaning, there’s no doubt. We’ll run it again, and you can make up your mind. Lasorda is really upset, and you can’t say that you blame him.”
  • 2:05 Lasorda is basically staging a reenactment of the play near first base.
  • 2:12 Kubek: “Reggie Jackson, from our replay anyway, looked like he stuck that hip out purposely to let it hit him, which would have been the third out.”
  • 2:23 Seaver: “I don’t think there’s any question he did.”
  • 2:29 Seaver is the first to question whether Russell’s drop was legitimate: “The play before that, the line drive that was hit to Russell. He can’t intentionally drop the ball. It’s a judgment on the umpires’ call on the play …”
  • Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 9.51.32 PM2:41 Lasorda is in full rage. Seaver: “Lasorda is livid. He is absolutely livid.”
  • 2:45 Kubek: “The football people have talked anyway about using replays. This is a play here — we’ve got a much better viewpoint than the umpires do after showing it three or four different angles. But to me it appeared that Reggie Jackson intentionally tried to deflect the ball which appeared — I’m not hedging my bets — appeared to be a double-play ball.”
  • 3:18 Lasorda is back in the dugout. A boy in the dugout throws his hands back over his head — I want to say it’s Don Sutton’s son Daron, but I really don’t know —  still can’t believe what he saw.
  • 3:40 Just as play is about to resume and Tommy John is going to throw his next pitch, the umpires call time out, because the scoreboard hasn’t even registered the second out of the inning (Jackson being forced at second).
  • 4:00 One last look at the play. Garagiola: “Now look at Jackson. He sees it, and he leans over there. You can’t blame him — he’s out already, so what’s the difference what he tries to do, and he got by with it and it paid off.”

Jackson would later admit to former Dodger broadcaster Ross Porter that he stuck his hip out on purpose.

“I got away with one there. I can honestly tell you looking back then that I knew that Billy Russell had caught the line drive and dropped it. And really if he would have caught the line drive and just thrown me out, he would have been a lot better off. I watched him catch the ball and drop it, and so therefore I just stood my ground, because I thought what he did — I really reacted to what Billy Russell did, and I just stood my ground and rather than move my hip into the ball, I just kind of took it with a little move of the hip. I really reacted to Billy Russell’s actions.”

At the end of all this, having rewatched this again so many times, I’m not entirely convinced that today’s instant replay system would have reversed the call. What might have been? New York scored one in the eighth and one in the 10th to win Game 4 and even the series, then took the final two games for the championship.


Quotebook: Andrew Friedman


A true Dodger fireman


  1. oldbrooklynfan

    It still bothers me when I watch that play. As a die-heart Dodger fan, it really made me angry and I grew a hatred for Reggie Jackson. Russell letting the ball drop, in my opinion, is done often enough to be pretty routine and umpires usually don’t call it, but what Jackson did was something you rarely see. Yes, it still hurts.
    I never really thought of the fact that Russell could have tagged Munson for the DP, a very interesting occurrence that Russell probably never thought about either.

  2. I’ve read an account by a couple of the umpires involved. Joe Brinkman, the 2B umpire, had to decide whether Russell dropped it intentionally and instantly decided he didn’t because he’d had defensive trouble–but Bill Haller, a more senior umpire, later told Brinkman he thought it was intentional. The 1B umpire, Frank Pulli, never said anything about it other than that he made the right call, and I think he’s one of the best umpires I ever saw–but that was an absolutely horrible call, and puts me in the odd position of agreeing with Tommy Lasorda.

  3. Could that play be one of the reasons we have replay checks in the games now? “Let’s Zapruder it.” Great metaphor!

  4. On the ESPN Sunday night game between our boys and the Yanks Tommy and Reggie were barking about that play. Then they hugged each other.

  5. My first heart break as a kid. I believe to this day the 78 Dodgers were the best Dodgers team since I followed them, and still can’t believe they lost this series.

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