September 17, 2021

Rose & Reggie: 40 Years Later

April 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Rose & Reggie: 40 Years Later

Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose are two of baseball’s all-time iconic figures, having put together nearly unparalleled careers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Jackson and Rose played on piles of All-Star teams, won multiple World Series, earned millions on and off the field and were often loved and hated in equal amounts – sometimes by their own teammates and fans.

But there is one thing that both of these baseball deities did only once and, fittingly, it happened in the same season exactly 40 years ago: each took home their respective league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Before delving into the particulars of those standout 1973 campaigns, let us first recount just what towering players they were.  Rose was National League Rookie of the Year in 1963, made his first All-Star team in 1965 and from ’65 through 1985, Rose and Reggie made a combined 31 All-Star teams, 14 for Reggie, 17 for Rose.

From 1970 through 1983, either Rose, Reggie, or both played in the World Series every year except ’71, ’79 and ’82.  Rose’s Cincinnati Reds lost to Reggie’s Oakland A’s in the 1972 series as Oakland went on to win three straight titles.

All told, Rose appeared in the postseason eight times with the Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, played in six World Series and won three of them.

Reggie reached the playoffs 11 times with the A’s, New York Yankees and California Angels, appeared in the World Series six times, (technically, one could say five because Reggie was hurt during that ’72 series against Rose and the Reds and did not play) won it all five times and was MVP of the Fall Classic in ’73 with Oakland and ’77 with the Yankees which included his historic three home runs in the clinching Game Six.

Rose and Reggie are on baseball’s Mount Rushmore for the 1970s and in 1973 they particularly stood out.

Rose hit .338 in ’73, good enough for his third NL batting title.  He also led the Senior Circuit in hits, (230) at-bats, (680) and plate appearances, (752) while spending most of that season in left field.

Reggie’s ’73 campaign saw him atop the AL with 32 home runs, 117 RBI and 99 runs scored while patrolling left field in Oakland and appearing in three games as a designated hitter, the first year there was such a thing.  MVP is based on regular season performance but it’s worth noting, again, that Reggie also went on to win World Series MVP that year.  Rose’s ’73 campaign ended in a National League Championship Series loss to the upstart New York Mets which featured Pete’s notorious brawl with New York’s Bud Harrelson in Game Three.

Should these icons have won more trophies?

Rose finished in the top ten in MVP voting seven times, including ’73, and it likely worked against him that in many years he was not even the best player on his own team.  Look over baseball’s roster of NL MVPs of the 1970s and it reads like the Reds’ lineup card: catcher Johnny Bench won it in ’70 and ’72.  Second baseman Joe Morgan took home the hardware in ’75 and ’76, and George Foster was MVP in 1977.

Reggie also had seven top ten MVP finishes, including ’73, and finished 14th in the voting in ’71, the year his teammate, Vida Blue, won it.

When considering their careers it would seem that both Rose and Reggie should have won at least one more MVP but those awards are, appropriately, usually given to the player who truly was the best in a given year, not the player who is compiling the more impressive career.

Pete Rose made his major league debut 50 years ago, April 8, 1963.  A decade later he was MVP and the heartbeat of one of baseball’s greatest teams.  A decade and-a-half after that he became, amid gambling accusations and his expulsion from baseball, one of the game’s most tragic figures.  He was the crew cut kid of the 60s, the shaggy-haired hustler of the 70s, and now he’s the gray-haired fallen star of today.  He signs autographs for money and is on baseball’s outside looking in.

Reggie Jackson is now selling the Yankees jersey he wore when he hit those three home runs in the ’77 series not because he needs the money but rather to share his wealth with his family and charities.

Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson were baseball’s best players 40 years ago.  They were brash, talented, defined a baseball generation, and shared the game’s top individual prize.  Reggie’s path since his playing days has taken him largely away from the game.  Rose’s choices have, literally, banished him from it.  We couldn’t have known this would be the case in 1973.  We only knew then that they were fun to watch and left it all on the field.

With their long hair tucked under their helmets they swung away and built historic careers.  And one most valuable season.


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