It was the summer of 1988. I was home from college and had a job working in the laboratory of an ethanol plant in southern Ohio. The plant took in around 100 railcars of corn every 3-4 days and cranked out 60-70 million gallons of fuel ethanol a year. It was a blue-collar environment, and just about everyone followed the Reds pretty closely.
In 1988 the Cincinnati Reds had picked up a new pitcher, Danny Jackson, from the Kansas City Royals. Jackson chewed up a lot of innings (224 IP) in 1987, but his record was awful at 9-18. Back in these days, KC had a competitive team with players like a veteran George Brett and promising newcomers like Danny Tartabull, Kevin Seitzer, and Bo Jackson. The Royals were 83-79 in 1987 and finished second in the AL West. Unloading Danny Jackson didn’t seem like a great loss for the Royals or much of a gain for the Reds.
Sometimes players respond well to a change in scenery. Jackson in 1988 was one of those players. He was white-hot that year and built a 23-8 record. As a Reds fan, as the season went on, I followed every start. I was even cheering harder for Jackson than my beloved Mario Soto. As a very biased fan, I thought that Jackson had a legitimate shot at the Cy Young that year. The only problem was one Orel Hershiser. Hershiser played for a better team (Dodgers), had a lower ERA (2.26 vs. 2.73), and a ridiculous 59.1 inning scoreless pitching streak. Helped by his scoreless streak, Hershiser had eight shutouts that year. Jackson’s total wasn’t bad at six. Still, Hershiser ended up winning the Cy Young unanimously.
That’s OK, next year Danny. Hershiser can’t pitch out of his mind every year. As it turned out, neither could Jackson. He couldn’t crack .500 in the next two seasons with the Reds. Jackson did revive his career a bit with the Phillies in the mid-90s, but he never got past 14 wins. Jackson retired after the 1997 season.
Just how good was Jackson’s season in 1988? Jackson’s career record was 112-131 over 15 seasons. His 23 wins in 1988 account for over 20% of his career victories! A fifth of his wins in one fifteenth of his career. Although he was never found the magic of 1988 again, he did have that one awesome season. As a rising sophomore in college, I won’t forget it.
So, this post is in honor of Danny Jackson, pictured here in his 1992 Leaf card (from Series 2). This card was pulled from a Leaf pack that will soon be featured in a pack rip on this blog.