Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Mr. Clutch pals with baseball’s Mr. October

The Seahawks’ Mr. Clutch pals around with baseball’s Mr. October.

The last time was just last weekend. Russell Wilson, whose 29 fourth-quarter comebacks rank first in the NFL since 2012, sat with his friend Reggie Jackson in Yankee Stadium to watch a baseball playoff game in New York.

Wilson got the chance to see the team he moonlights for in spring training because Seattle played on Thursday last week. He continued one of the best starts of his eight-year (football) career by completing 19 of 23 passes with four touchdowns, including the game-winner to Chris Carson late in the Seahawks’ 30-29 rally past the Rams. Then Wilson flew to New York to meet up with his friend, one of the most famous Yankees of them all. They watched the Yanks beat Minnesota in the American League Division Series.

“I met Reggie at spring training,” Wilson said Thursday, three days before he and the Seahawks (4-1) play at the Cleveland Browns (2-3). “Reggie’s been awesome. I’ve talked to him about the World Series and just different games.

“Whenever I go to spring training, I have lunch with him. ...We sit for about an hour, just talkin’ ball, talkin’ life. A former guy who played two sports, played multiple sports and just did all sorts of stuff.

“It was cool, just sitting with him in the dugout talking during BP and stuff. A lot of cool stories.”

Jackson, now 73, left his hometown of Philadelphia to accept a football scholarship from Arizona State in 1964; he’s said he chose ASU over about 75 football scholarship offers. He played for Arizona State football coach Frank Kush, a notorious hard-(rear end).

“This guy I thought ate cactus for breakfast,” Jackson has written about Kush, who later became the last Baltimore Colts coach.

As he described in his 1984 autobiography “Reggie,” Jackson hated that Kush had his players run up and down “Mount Kush,” a rocky hill that overlooks Sun Devil Stadium, in 100-degree heat and full pads. He hated that Kush used to have Jackson take on all 11 players on ASU’s defense, by himself, and would tell the defenders “no mercy.”

Jackson’s book describes one spring-practice day early in his college career when he finally had enough of Kush and football. Legend has it he walked from football practice to ASU’s baseball practice going on across the street. He asked for a workout. While still wearing his football pants, Jackson crushed a home run on the first pitch he saw in the impromptu batting practice.

ASU baseball coach Bobby Winkles put Jackson on his team, on the spot.

The rest is baseball history.

When told that story in the Seahawks’ locker room Thursday, Wilson nodded his head and really didn’t smile.

“I believe that, knowing Reggie,” Wilson said.

Wilson was a minor-league middle infielder after the Colorado Rockies selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft. He says he talks with Jackson about playing football and baseball.

“With Reggie though, you see a player who was clutch. One of the greatest players who ever played the game,” Wilson said. “When he walked up to the plate, you knew that something great was going to happen.

“I think that Mr. October was a guy that my dad always told me about and admired, everything else, him doing it for the Yankees for all those years.”

Jackson got his “Mr. October” nickname for his mammoth hits in World Series games, first for the Oakland A’s of the early 1970s but most famously for the world’s most famous baseball team. His three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series remains one of the greatest feats in baseball history. That was the night that he got the famous nickname for excellence in the clutch.

What has Jackson told Wilson about coming through in his sport’s biggest moments?

“It’s just about belief. It’s about a swagger and a belief,” Wilson said, “Either you exude it, or you don’t.

“That’s what we kind of talked about. It’s cool because that’s not all we talk about. He loves football. I’ve talked to him about that...and just talking to him about other players that we observe. So talking about different guys and whether it’s with the Yankees or other teams, or in basketball, whatever it may be. It’s always cool watching clutch guys.

“There are a few people that I think everybody has in there when they think of clutch players. ...Obviously, I’ve talked to him about Derek Jeter for a long time, what he was like. Several other guys, too, as well. Even the guys now: Aaron Judge (Yankees slugger and right fielder), how he plays and how he goes about his business.”

Wilson says he and Jackson also talk NBA basketball.

“We talk about Steph Curry; he loves basketball. Michael Jordan, obviously,” Wilson said.

“I asked him about himself, obviously, because he was one of those guys. I mean, his name is Mr. October for it. There’s no higher saying in baseball than that, pretty much.

“So, it’s pretty cool.”

As was Wilson’s past mini-bye weekend. The Seahawks won. He continued playing what coach Pete Carroll says is the best he’s ever been (12 touchdowns, no interceptions so far this season). Then he and his wife, Ciara, flew to New York to reunite with Reggie and the Yankees.

“So it’s pretty cool. I got to sit with Reggie at the game, spent some time with him at the Yankees game this past weekend,” he said. “That was really cool.

“I hope the Yankees win it (all).

“Did you watch the game last night?” Wilson added, talking about the Washington Nationals’ rallying from 3-0 down late at the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers to tie it against ace Clayton Kershaw then win their division series on a grand slam in the 10th inning.

“That was crazy. That was wild.

“I love playoff baseball.”

Wilson has trained with the Yankees in their last two spring-training camps in Tampa, Florida. He hit a home run in a workout, then played in a Grapefruit League exhibition game for New York in March 2018. He struck out in his only at-bat.

Wilson joked to reporters covering the Yankees in that spring training “I tried to get No. 3 (for New York). But I think somebody had it already.”

That would be Babe Ruth.

Apparently, Jackson’s No. 44 was also unavailable for Wilson in pinstripes.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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