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Reggie Jackson and Muhammad Ali

Mar 29, 2009
Eiji Yoshikawa

When I was living in New York City, and Reggie Jackson was in town, I would go to Yankee Stadium a couple of hours before the game got started so that I could get to see how he warmed up on the field.

When he walked into the batting cage, I didn’t blink because I did not want to miss a second. With each swing, the balls made a very straight line and smashed into the blue benches on the second tier of the bleachers over right field. More than just physical power, I could feel his spiritual power as he swung his bat.

When he started playing baseball in the Major Leagues in the 1960s, even some of his team mates didn’t want to eat with him or stay in the same hotel because he was black.

An interviewer asked him, “Did it drive you mad?”
Reggie replied, “No. I just play baseball and be the best. That’s how I fight.”

Reggie rose to the top of baseball and changed history:

  1. In 1977, in a game during the World Series, he hit three home runs in a row. It was all on the very first ball pitched to him. This is still an unbeaten record.

  2. Until Reggie, the heroes in baseball were Babe Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio.After Reggie, it seems as if baseball was taken over by African-Americans.

Reggie’s World Series spectacular was three years after Muhammad Ali’s most miraculous knock-out victory, called “Rumble in the Jungle”, that changed boxing history and the world.

One out of three persons watched that fight on TV, which is probably the world record.

Ali and Reggie were both on TV all the time during the 60’s and 70’s, when TV was spreading across the planet. What they did and said was sent right into homes in every town and village across the oceans.

Ali said, “No Viet Cong calls me a nigger”, as he refused to kill people in Vietnam in 1967. Ali’s appearance shocked everyone at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Ali appeared on a special live program broadcast throughout the US on September 21, 2001 where he said “I’m a Muslim. I’ve been a Muslim for 20 years… You know me. I’m a boxer. I’ve been called the greatest. People recognize me for being a boxer and a man of truth. I wouldn’t be here representing Islam if it were a terrorist [religion]… I think all people should know the truth, come to recognize the truth. Islam is peace.”

Some people say that, “Without Ali, there would be no rap music, no Eddie Murphy or Denzel Washington or any other people of color who are at the top of any sector.”

In 1989, Reggie Jackson hosted a documentary film called “Champions Forever”. Ali was the main star.

Twenty-two years after Reggie hit those three homeruns with his number “44” (now retired) on his back, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the USA.

Eiji Yoshikawa is a retired Pro Boxer who majored inFrench literature and did his thesis on Jean Cocteau and Cinematography. He founded the "Peacemakers", Japan's first neighborhood watch, and spends much of his time visiting schools and communities teaching children about non-violence. In 2004, Japan Inc. Magazine called him the "Compassionate Pugilist". We are proud to offer "Letters from the Compassionate Pugilist" as our first guestcolumnist. Contact Eiji at or via email.

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