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Jackson got first taste of Majors in Kansas City

Jackson got first taste of Majors in Kansas City

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Jackson got first taste of Majors in Kansas City

When people talk about the best Draft pick ever by a Kansas City club in the Major Leagues, George Brett's name quickly comes to mind. But there's another guy who went from Kansas City draftee to Hall of Famer as well. It's the guy they used to call "Mr. October."

Yes, Reggie Jackson was drafted by Kansas City.

That would be the Kansas City A's, who became the Oakland A's in 1968 -- one year after Jackson made his MLB debut. Jackson, who was taken by Kansas City with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1966 Draft, played 35 games for Kansas City in 1967. He managed to get his first career homer with Kansas City. There would be 562 more homers for Jackson before his retirement in 1987.

This past July, when the All-Star festivities were held in Kansas City, Jackson was in the middle of it all. Truly, he had come full circle. He was just 21 when he got that first cup of coffee in the Major Leagues with Kansas City. And by the time the A's were open for business in the Bay Area a year later, he was ready to blossom into a star. Jackson said goodbye to Kansas City and, a few years later, Brett said hello.

On July 7 -- three days before the All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium -- Jackson and Brett weren't like two ships passing in the night. Jackson, 66, had the pleasure of spending three hours on a Saturday evening at Brett's residence where rich memories were rekindled.

"George is one of my great friends and a guy who was one of my arch-rivals when we competed against each other on the field," Jackson said. "We had a great time eating food, drinking iced tea and lemonade and sharing stories."

Jackson became a power-hitting, full-fledged star for 10 years with the A's and was a big part of the three-peat dynasty, as Oakland won world championships in 1972, 1973 and 1974. But it wasn't until he joined the Yankees in 1977 that Jackson took on a larger-than-life persona. When he hit three consecutive homers in the clinching game of the '77 World Series against the Dodgers, Jackson earned a special niche in Yankee history.

Royals' fans remember Jackson well from those tense playoff series in '77, 1978 and 1980. When the Yankees managed to win it all in '77 and '78, Jackson was viewed around the baseball world as the ultimate winner. At age 32, he had already been part of five championship teams.

"I was extremely fortunate to play for two owners -- Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner -- who really were focused on winning," Jackson said. "We had great ballclubs with the A's and Yankees, and we appreciated how ownership put those teams together.

"I played on some tremendous teams, and I also played on some teams that didn't win. When your season ends with disappointment, it just makes you that much more grateful for all the times we did win. It's not easy to get to the top and lift that trophy. I never took winning for granted."

Jackson grew in Wyncote, Pa., not far from Philadelphia. He was an all-around athlete, attending Arizona State on a football scholarship. He switched permanently to baseball following his freshman year and it turned out to be a fruitful decision.

In his 21 seasons, Jackson reached the postseason 11 times. He's a special advisor for the Yankees these days and those who follow the team in pinstripes still pay keen attention when Jackson has something to say.

For all of his grand accomplishments, Jackson maintains that the pitcher he least wanted to face was a little-known Royals' left-hander named Andy Hassler, who pitched for Kansas City from 1976 through 1978.

"He was kind of a side-arm lefty who was wild," Jackson said. "He didn't know where the ball was going. So, I was very uncomfortable facing him."

Most of the time, Jackson made the pitchers feel uncomfortable.

Like Brett, he's a Kansas City Draft pick who turned out to be a player for the ages.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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