Few confrontations in sports are as personal and dramatic as a batter standing in against a pitcher with a baseball game on the line — and fewer understand that relationship better than baseball legends Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson.
Jackson, a home run hitter who won five World Series rings with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees, and Gibson, an eight-time all-star who won two championships with the St. Louis Cardinals, collaborated with writer Lonnie Wheeler for a book called Sixty Feet, Six Inches. The book contains a series of conversations between the two Hall of Famers, where they touch on everything from playing in the World Series to modern controversies involving steroids and free agency.
Jackson explains to Dave Davies how he felt each time he went to bat in the World Series.
"It was a battle between me and the guy on the mound. And I knew everything about who I was facing. Even in the other league, we had scouting reports. I paid attention to them. I watched. I learned. I understood. I felt prepared," he says. "And I really wanted the guy that I was facing to be at his best because then it made the thinking easy because you understood what a guy had, what was his best pitch. ... I may not be able to handle it, but the thinking gets simple."
Although Jackson and Gibson never faced each other on the field, Gibson — who pitched for 17 seasons with St. Louis — says he knows what he would have done had he faced Jackson at the plate.
"You know, Reggie's up there and Reggie's not going to get a hit every time he's up there, nor is he going to hit a home run every time he's up there," says Gibson. "But he's probably more capable of hitting one than the guy behind him, so why do a silly thing, especially if you're in a situation where he could win. ... You would pitch around him; that meaning, pitch to the next hitter, a guy that you know you can get out or you suspect you can get out a lot better than him. If I don't make a mistake on Reggie, I'm going to get him out. I don't know whether I'm going to make a mistake. If I do make a mistake, he's going to hit it. So let's try somebody else. And that's the way I looked at it."
This interview originally aired Oct. 12, 2009.