Arizona State standout Reggie Jackson was considered the best amateur ballplayer in the country heading into the 1966 Major League Baseball draft. The team picking first that year was the lowly, awful New York Mets.
According to Jackson’s new tell-all, “Becoming Mr. October” (Doubleday), in which he details feuds and resentments toward his old Yankee teammates, the New York media and especially his old manager Billy Martin, the only reason he did not become a Met was because his girlfriend, Juanita Campos, was Hispanic.
Jackson recalls how his coach at Arizona State, Bobby Winkles, broke the bad news.
“A day or two before the draft, Bobby Winkles sat me down and told me, ‘You’re probably not gonna be the No. 1 pick. You’re dating a Mexican girl, and the Mets think you will be a problem,’ ” Jackson writes. “ ‘They think you’ll be a social problem because you are dating out of your race.’ ”
Jackson was especially baffled because he’s part Hispanic — his grandmother is from Puerto Rico and his middle name is Martinez. But that didn’t matter, even to the perennial cellar-dwelling Mets.
“No, you’re colored, and they don’t want that,” Winkles said.‘Becoming Mr. October” is a score-settling lament about all the people who have wronged Jackson, who comes off as the A-Rod of his day — incredibly talented, disliked by his teammates and ignorant of why anyone would be mad at him.
“This book has been written because I wanted to set the record straight regarding what the 1977-1978 seasons of the Yankees were like from my side,” Jackson writes. “The mini-series ‘The Bronx is Burning’ thoroughly embarrassed me the way the story was told.”