Friday, March 24, 2023

Reggie, on Prime

Along with Pele, he was the personification of New York sports in the late 1970s. Reggie Jackson’s play on the field and his contentious relationship with Yankees manager Billy Martin were welcome distractions from “The Summer of Sam.” However, Jackson nearly became a notorious murderer himself, when he was brainwashed to assassinate the Queen in The Naked Gun. That is way more movie references than most athletes get, but Jackson was always at the center of the New York media’s attention, whether he liked it or not. Jackson looks back at his career highs and controversies in Alex Stapleton’s documentary Reggie, which premiers today on Prime.

For baseball fans, hearing Jackson take a call from Pete Rose at the beginning of the film might just overshadow everything that follows it. Jackson always shot from the hip, despite taking flak for it, so his candor in Stapleton’s film should not be a surprise. Jackson has a lot to say about black participation in Major League Baseball, both past and present. He also has a lot to unpack from his own career, including five World Series rings and two World Series MVPs.

Jackson won three World Series in Oakland, made the post-season twice with the California Angels and now works for the Houston Astros, but he will always be remembered as a New York sports legend. Therefore, it is fitting both Derek Jeter and Aaron Judge make appearances to discuss Jackson’s mentorship.

Surprisingly, the late George Steinbrenner’s image might be somewhat burnished by the film. On the other, it might lower Billy Martin’s stock. Regardless, watching
Reggie will bring slightly more mature fans right back to the time when the manager was constantly generating NY tabloid headlines, right alongside Jackson. Love him or hate him, a good Billy Martin doc is seriously overdue.

Jackson has a lot to say about the state of the game and society, which is important, but the fun parts feature Jackson reminiscing with his friends and teammates, like Rollie Fingers and Dave Stewart. There is also a lot of material that will be new to more casual baseball fans, like Jackson’s unsuccessful bid to buy the LA Dodgers, which didn’t fail due to a lack of money, considering Bill Gates and Paul Allen were part of his management group.

In fact, there is a whole lot packed into
Reggie—so much so, his appearance in The Naked Gun gets crowded out, even though it became an awkward meme after Queen Elizabeth’s death. Heck, they hardly have time for the Reggie candy bar, but there is a lot of baseball.

Arguably, New York sports are still interesting, even if you are not a huge sports fan. Reggie Jackson is a perfect example. Stapleton and company make it easy to see why. Her documentary has a strong point of view, but it never becomes a PSA, thanks to the brisk pace and the gritty New York attitude of Jackson’s Yankee tenure. Highly recommended,
Reggie is now streaming on Prime Video.