- Last Updated: 4:59 AM, July 21, 2012
- Posted: 1:25 AM, July 21, 2012
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Reggie Jackson was nearly 3,000 miles away, embedded with the Yankees in Oakland, Calif. But even in absentia, Mr. October was the elephant in the middle of town yesterday as baseball royalty gathered for tomorrow’s induction of Reds shortstop Barry Larkin and Cubs third baseman Ron Santo into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackson, Cooperstown Class of 1993, caused a stir a few weeks back when, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, in addition to questioning whether Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame when they become eligible given their alleged involvement with steroids, he listed several current members of the Hall whom he believed should not have gotten in without a ticket.
In that category, Jackson put the late Gary Carter, as well as Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven, Don Sutton and Phil Niekro.
In the same article, Jackson said if any of the players suspected of using steroids were elected to the Hall of Fame, the current members of the Hall would boycott that year’s ceremony.
Jackson has since apologized for his remarks. But instead of traveling here, as he does most years for enshrinement weekend, to answer for his comments or, at the very least, get ribbed for making them by the other members of this 297-member fraternity, Jackson chose to stay on the West Coast and renew acquaintances with the Yankees. The club’s hierarchy had told Jackson to stay from the team for several days earlier this month while the storm over his Alex Rodriguez comments blew over.
“I don’t want to get into that,” Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins said yesterday when asked about Jackson. “He doesn’t choose his words correctly. You’ve got to think before you speak.
“I’ve known Reggie since he was 19 years old at [Arizona State University]. He doesn’t think before he speaks and, unfortunately, he steps on his tongue with a big foot. We’ve been friends for a long time. ... But he’s got to choose his words better.”
Tony Perez laughed when the subject of Jackson was broached. But then he grew serious.
“This is the Hall of Fame, and you’re in it because you do something great in your career,” he said. “Anybody who gets voted into the Hall of Fame deserves to be there.’’
Rollie Fingers was Jackson’s teammate when the A’s won three consecutive world championships in the early 1970s with Jackson doing a lot of the heavy lifting. When told the names of the players Jackson felt did not belong in the Hall of Fame, Fingers laughed when he heard Blyleven was among them.
“Blyleven? I guarantee you he got Reggie out more than Reggie got him,” Fingers said. “Why would he say that?’’
Fingers was right. In 131 at bats against Blyleven, Jackson hit .214 with six homers and 49 strikeouts.
“That doesn’t sound like Reggie, bad-mouthing guys who are already in the Hall,” Fingers said. “You could say the same thing for him: ‘Gosh, he struck out more than anybody in the world [a record 2,597 times]. Why is he in the Hall?’
“You don’t say those things about other guys. But that’s Reggie.’’Follow @NYPostsports