It can’t be easy to watch yourself portrayed as Reggie Jackson’s rival in an eight-week ESPN miniseries. But at last week’s premiere party for The Bronx Is Burning, which debuted last night, Mickey Rivers, who played center field for the Yanks in that ‘77 season, was laughing up a storm. When he left the screening, he had a friend deliver a few words to Daniel Sunjata, who plays Jackson: “I still don’t like Reggie, but you’re okay.” Then he spoke to New York about his old nemesis, life in the old dugout, and whether Alex Rodriguez is the new Reggie.
Did you like Reggie?
Before Reggie come over here, we were good friends, when he was in Oakland and I was with the Angels. I used to idolize Reggie. I wanted to be like Reggie. He was a superstar. I just didn’t like what he became once he got here. Thurman [Munson] and a lot other guys played it off like it was a black-and-white issue, which it wasn’t. It was an ego issue.
What pissed you off?
A lot of things, but the time he said he’s “the straw that stirs the drink” — I thought it wasn’t called for. The only thing we wanted to do was win. And we were losing at the time. I think it got to most of the guys. None of the guys wanted to say much to him once he started to do a lot of talking. He’d come in there like he was king. Big deal. We don’t care if you’re king, as long as you don’t put none of our guys down.
Did you all fight a lot?
It was worse than a boxing ring. If you strike out or look bad on the field, we’d get on each other. If you can’t take the heat, you gotta get out of the kitchen. Every day somebody got their turn. We yelled mostly, but bad enough that you wanted to fight. That’s how we became winners. We fought each other. When you did something wrong, we’d tell you about it.
You talk to Reggie still?
We talk now because we have to work together. As the time passes by, we can’t do no more blame. Only thing we can do is help somebody and let somebody learn a little knowledge of how the game’s well played. We helped Jeter out, we helped Bernie out, we helped Melky Cabrera out. The Yankees have always had the best players help out the new guys.
Is A-Rod the new Reggie Jackson?
No, A-Rod don’t want to be the straw that stirs the drink. He want to be known as a fair guy who goes out and help a team to win a pennant. He’s a great guy. I work with him. Going on twenty years I’ve seen A-Rod getting better in different programs. He’s one of the hardest-working guys there.
Do you miss anything about the old days?
I kinda miss the fashion. —Jada Yuan