Monday, May 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Baseball very good to Jackson

In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports columnist Ron Musselman talked with Grant Jackson, a Fostoria native who appeared in three World Series and one All-Star Game over 18 major league seasons. Jackson also spent 19 years working as a pitching coach at both the minor and major league levels.

Grant Jackson comes from a family of great athletes. The success of the Jackson brothers in athletics is unparalleled in Fostoria's history. Grant was one of nine children, the fourth of five talented sons.

He played football and baseball and ran track in high school, but his first love was baseball. He cut his teeth playing Little League, and once struck out 33 batters in two games on the same day at an American Legion tournament.

After graduating from Fostoria High School in 1961, Jackson tried to enroll at Bowling Green State University, but he didn't qualify academically. He attended a BG branch campus in his hometown for a year and a semester, but grades got in the way once again.

That's when Jackson called Tony Lucadello, the famed Philadelphia Phillies scout from Fostoria, and told him he wanted to pursue a professional career. Lucadello eventually signed Jackson as a free agent after an impressive showing at a tryout camp in Gomer, Ohio.

Jackson, a hard-throwing left-hander, broke into the major leagues with the Phillies at age 22 in 1965. He retired in 1982 after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jackson compiled an 86-75 record with 79 saves in 692 games for six major league teams, including the Phillies, Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos and Kansas City Royals. Jackson pitched in three World Series in the 1970s and was the winning pitcher in relief for the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Jackson was hired as Pittsburgh's pitching coach in 1983.

He held similar positions with four other organizations - the Chicago Cubs, Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, and Orioles, and retired after the 2002 season.

Jackson, 62, and his wife live in the Pittsburgh suburb of Upper St. Clair. They have two daughters, a son, and nine grandchildren.

"Fostoria was a great place to grow up. I still go back there quite a few times a year. I have two sisters that still live there. And I help out some with the high school baseball team. I have worked with the pitchers there on occasion and tried to teach them some of the basic fundamentals of throwing the ball. I enjoy working with the kids."

"I signed with the Phillies for $1,500 in 1962. My family needed the money. I had eight brothers and sisters, and my dad had died in 1960 while I was still in high school. A few days after I signed my first contract, the Milwaukee Braves and Baltimore Orioles each offered me a much bigger bonus [of $35,000]. I wish then I could have called the Phillies back and told them I wasn't going to accept their offer."

"Tony Lucadello was the scout who signed me. I started at Class A although Tony had signed me to a Class D contract, and worked my way up. Early on, Mike Marshall, Alex Johnson and Ferguson Jenkins, three other guys Tony had signed, would come to Fostoria and we'd work out together at the YMCA. We would lift weights, throw the ball, and swim in the pool. Tony whipped us all into shape and got us ready for spring training."

"My dad, Joe, and my older brother Carlos had the greatest influence on me when I was younger. Those two took me under their wing at a very young age and helped make sure I did things the right way."

"My dad taught me how to be a man early on. He told me to keep my nose clean and just keep working hard and things would work out. He died when I was 16 or 17 and then my brother took over."

"Carlos was my biology teacher and my backfield coach in football. He was a standout athlete, as were my other brothers, Bernard, Chuckie, and Cecil. Carlos played football in college at Bowling Green and Ohio State and later was an assistant coach at BG."

"Winning Game 7 of the [1979] World Series was my biggest thrill in baseball, no doubt. People from that era here in Pittsburgh still remember it like it was yesterday. It's kind of old hat to me, but I don't mind talking about it. We lost the first game in that series 5-4, but we weren't worried. I remember breaking out the crabs and beer and partying to Sister Sledge's `We are Family.' Even after we got down 3-1 in the series, it bothered our fans, but it didn't bother us. We knew we had a better team than the Orioles. In the end, we proved it."

"Willie Stargell was the star of our team. He was a great leader, on and off the field. He was one of the best players and best teammates I ever came into contact with. The day he died [April 9, 2001] was one of the sorriest days of my life."

"I am not one of those guys who really dwell on what I did as a player. I would only focus on what the team did, but if the team did well, then that meant everybody on the team was having some success. If someone asks me what my stats were, I tell them to talk to my wife. She knows all of that stuff much better than I do. All I know is, I signed my contract in 1962 and I retired in 2002. I had a lot of fun in between, and it was all because of baseball."

Contact Blade columnist Ron Musselman at: mussel@theblade.comor 419-724-6474.

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