Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stole the spotlight at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, treating it like a one-man show on Broadway. It was the 44th anniversary of Reggie Jackson hitting a home run against the White Sox and then having fans shower the field with some of the Reggie Bars that had been handed out that night by Standard Brands, which showed it had been paying attention when Reggie said that if he played in New York, they’d name a candy bar after him. And so they did.
This was six months after Reggie had the most famous three home-run game in baseball history. On just three swings of the bat in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, he became Mr. October for all times. Now here was this talented kid, Vlad Jr., hitting three against the Yankees, the last two after he’d been spiked on the right hand on a play at first base and required a bandage to close a gash.
All that happened at the new Stadium, in the first week of a new baseball season, when Yankees fans got to see what Guerrero could do in front of them, in that place.
“It was a true New York moment,” Reggie said the next morning. “There’s just an added value when you have a night in New York like he did. Now don’t get me wrong: People would have sat up and taken notice no matter where he hit three last night. It’s just different when you do it in New York. And, trust me, no one knows that better than I do.”
“Now the younger people may have to go back and look up what I’m referencing here,” he said. “But it’s like when The Beatles made their first appearance in New York on the old ‘Ed Sullivan Show.’ People already knew about The Beatles by then, obviously. They were already a hit. But then they came to New York. In baseball last night, Vlad was like The Beatles coming to town back in the day.”
Two home runs after Guerrero got spiked, you thought he might be leaving the game when he went to the Blue Jays’ dugout. The first two were hit off Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace. There are other exciting swings in the game. Of course, Shohei Ohtani comes to mind. There is no more exciting swing, no more exciting at-bat than when Guerrero is at the plate, carrying on a Hall of Fame name in baseball every time he steps to the plate.
“His dad was one of those guys, just like the son is,” Jackson said. “Their only real competition is the mirror. Can you imagine how much bigger his dad would have been if he’d even played some of his prime in New York City?”
Then, on his end of the call, Mr. October was going online, because he guessed that Vlad Jr.’s dad — “Who swung at everything,” Jackson said — had a .311 career average. It turned out to be .318.
“And he didn’t hit under .300 until the end of his career, and even then, the lowest he went was .290,” Jackson said. “I believe if he’d played on bigger stages, he would have been looked at as having the quality of [Roberto] Gracious. And as great as Clemente was, he didn’t have the power numbers that Vlad Sr. had.”
Jackson then asked what Vlad Jr.’s batting average had been last season. I told him .311.
“I knew one of them was a .311,” Jackson said.
Then we were talking again about the night there were Reggie Bars on the field at the old Stadium, after a shot to right-center, a knuckleball from Wilbur Wood that didn’t knuckle, not unlike the one that Charlie Hough had thrown him in. Game 6 of the 1977 Series, the night Reggie hit his three.
I asked him if he had been aware that it was the Reggie Bar anniversary.
“I didn’t know it until I read it somewhere,” he said. “MaybeTwitter.”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s father played the first full seven seasons of his remarkable baseball career in Canada with the Montreal Expos. Now his son is him, playing on what might turn out to be the best team in the American League and maybe the best in baseball when it’s all over, he has begun his own, theatrical career in Canada with the Blue Jays.
With expectations so high for him after the year he had in 2021 (48 homers, 111 RBIs, .311 average), with expectations so high for the Blue Jays, he comes out of the blocks with four homers and eight RBIs in his first six games. Going into Thursday’s game against the Yankees, he was hitting .391. Then he had that kind of night, against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
“You saw what happened last night,” Reggie said, “the reach of doing what he did and doing it there.”
“People talking about the Reggie Bar,” he said. “Three home runs for the kid. In Yankee Stadium. Maybe it was karma.”
Maybe if this kid played where Reggie played, they’d name a candy bar after him_._
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism