Other than their May 18 birthday, Reggie Jackson (1946) and Brooks Robinson (1937) also share the spotlight in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In the 1960s and 1970s, baseball experienced an era of unprecedented talent, and players like Jackson and Robinson electrified the environment both in the field and at the plate. Though each man brought something different to the game, they are both remembered for their tenacious play and for many magical moments on the diamond.
Brooks Robinson (above) earned his nickname, the human vacuum cleaner, by gloving balls hit above him, at him, or to his right or left. His dramatic, diving catches were feats of timing and athleticism, and he was also a danger to opposing teams when he swung a bat. Over twenty-three seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Robinson had a .267 batting average and hit 268 home runs.
In the 1970 World Series against a powerful Cincinnati Reds team, Robinson led the Orioles with a searing .429 batting average; the Orioles took the series four games to one and Robinson was named series MVP. In his hall of fame induction speech in 1983, Robinson stated, “Throughout my career I was committed to the goodness of this game. In fact, I feel my love for the game of baseball over rode everything else.”
In the late 1970s in both print and televised media, Volkswagen ran an advertisement for its Rabbit which featured Reggie Jackson (right)—in his New York Yankees uniform—saying, “The only person I have to impress . . . is me.” Although that statement might have been the moniker for millions in the "Me Generation," it was particularly apt for Jackson, an athlete whose skills and personality shone high above others during his exceptional career.
The playoffs were always Jackson’s true season to shine, and he earned his nickname Mr. October from a spectacular performance in the 1977 World Series. In that series, playing for the New York Yankees, he hit five home runs and carried a .450 batting average. The Yanks took the series from the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to two. Over his twenty-one year career, Jackson was part of five championship teams, three with the Oakland A’s (’72, ’73, and ’74) and two with the New York Yankees (’77 and ’78). Jackson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
—Warren Perry, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Brooks Robinson / Walter Kelleher/ Gelatin silver print, 1958 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Reginald Martinez Jackson / Howard Rogers / Tempera on board, 1974 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine