Reggie Jackson Had More Brushes With Death Than You Realize

Reggie Jackson, an American baseball legend, was a talented athlete whose career took him across the United States (via Brittanica). Nicknamed "Mr. October," Jackson played for the Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and California Angels, in a career that spanned from the 1960s through the 1980s. Both at home and in his travels across the United States, trouble frequently seemed to find him — from explosive house fires to near misses with gun violence, these are all the ways Reggie Jackson narrowly escaped death.

As he was experimenting with sports in high school, Jackson suffered multiple injuries, as many athletes do (per SB Nation). During his high school years, he tried out football, track, basketball, and baseball. But as a junior, he was seriously injured during a football game. Five cervical vertebrae in Jackson's spine sustained fractures, and doctors painted him a grim picture: he might never walk again. That turned out to be false, because Jackson did continue on to have a very successful sports career. But afterward, Jackson opted to play baseball instead of football for the rest of his high school years.

A July 1966 baseball game left Jackson in the hospital again, per the Lewiston Morning Tribune. While Jackson was on the Lewis-Clark Broncs team, he got hit in the head with a baseball, and needed to be hospitalized for a few days. 

Jackson's house burned down more than once

In 1976, Reggie Jackson's house burnt down — it was the first of three times Jackson's properties would be scorched (per the Baltimore Sun). Per Popular Timelines, Jackson lost some irreplaceable trophies in this fire, including his All-Star rings, World Series trophies, and his 1973 Most Valuable Player award. 

Then, in June 1980, Jackson just barely escaped being shot by a man in New York City, who tried to start a fight with him following a Yankees game (via CNN). The two exchanged words over a parking spot, and a passenger in the car began to hurl racial slurs and curses at Jackson. Then, the man threw a broken bottle at the baseball player's car. He fired a .38 caliber gun at Jackson three times, and miraculously missed him each time. The man was arrested shortly after and charged with attempted murder and illegally possessing a deadly weapon. The story made it onto CNN's first-ever television broadcast. 

Just about a month later, in August 1980, Jackson was held at gunpoint outside a bar in the middle of the night (via The Michigan Daily). He had been celebrating his 400th home run, following a successful game against the White Sox, when a man pointed a massive .45 caliber gun at Jackson. Horrified, Jackson smacked the man with the door of his Rolls-Royce, and avoided a conflict.

Baseball hecklers target Jackson

In March 1985, Reggie Jackson had his next near miss with a baseball fan in Arizona, reports The Los Angeles Times. Reportedly, this fan had been heckling Jackson and the other players throughout the game, which the Angels won. As Jackson and another player, Brian Downing, were talking and signing autographs with a group of fans after the game, the belligerent heckler approached the two men. 

Jackson got into his car, but the fan wouldn't leave him alone — he told Jackson he was a fan, and offered him cocaine. When Jackson turned him down, the man began to hit Jackson's car. The person was restrained before he hurt anyone except himself (he sustained a cut on his lip), and he apologized to Jackson.

Just ten days later, per The Los Angeles Times, Reggie Jackson was once again involved in a heckling incident that turned violent. Jackson was half-asleep as he walked from his hotel to get some breakfast. He suddenly noticed a Volkswagen, driven by two men drinking beer, was veering wildly across the hotel lawns.

Jackson's car collection goes up in flames

The men recognized him, drove up to him, and called him a racist slur, before demanding he hand over his money and watch, according to The Los Angeles Times. Reggie Jackson laid about $4,000 and the watch on the ground, but the men reportedly wanted Jackson to hit them first, so they could sue him.

The baseball player retreated to the hotel to call the police — but before they arrived, the men came back, and this time, one of the men implied he would hit Jackson with a tire iron (via The Los Angeles Times). Jackson tackled the man and took away the tire iron before telling him, "​​I should make you eat this." Finally, police officers arrived and had breakfast with Jackson while he detailed the incident for their records.

Several years went by before Jackson's next harrowing encounter. The Los Angeles Times described Jackson as "visibly shaken" to see that roughly 35 of his cars had been completely scorched in a shocking 1988 explosion. Around 9 p.m. on August 3, 1988, Jackson's car collection caught fire. Although firefighters worked for two hours to extinguish the blaze, the fire devoured Jackson's car collection.

Jackson's properties burned...again

His large vehicle collection included valuable motorcycles, Mustangs, Porsches, and Corvettes, per AP News. About 30 of Jackson's 97-car collection was destroyed. The cause of the fire appeared to stem from a furniture store on the same block that started and spread the fire.

Jackson didn't know if someone with a vendetta against him had caused the inferno, or if it was accidental (via The Los Angeles Times). But the outcome was clear: The damage would cost about $3.2 million from his collection of vehicles, along with about $800,000 in other property damages. While he didn't know if the attack was intended to harm him, Jackson was not injured.

According to The Washington Post, Jackson was a victim of the Oakland Hills firestorm, a massive fire that ravaged California in 1991. The fire came at a horrible time for Jackson. He had been preparing to move into another of his three homes, but most of his belongings were being stored in the California house that burnt down.

Another brush with death

Reggie Jackson described the complete devastation he felt after losing many of his prized possessions, including artwork, a firearms collection, baseball memorabilia, and basically all his clothing (via The Washington Post). It was the third time that a fire had destroyed thousands or even millions of dollars worth of Jackson's personal property. As he stayed in a hotel in the aftermath of the blaze, Jackson said he hardly had any clothes left, telling the Times, "This is the most devastated I've ever been." Per The Baltimore Sun, Jackson managed to avoid the fire because he was in New Jersey at the time.

Sports Illustrated reports that in 2005, Jackson had another brush with death when he got into a bad car accident. During baseball training in Tampa, Florida, Jackson was rear-ended by another car. Per The New York Times, the car was driving at full speed when it hit Jackson's car — Jackson estimated the driver was going between 80 to 100 miles per hour when it slammed into him. 

The force of the blow caused Jackson's car to flip over three times, and the other driver was critically injured. Jackson's car took the brunt of the damage, as the windshield and windows exploded from the force of the impact. The baseball player was very shaken up after the incident, but he escaped with just scratches since he had been wearing his seatbelt, escaping death for the umpteenth time.