His 10-Year Career With Chicago And Brooklyn
Former third baseman Randy “Handsome Ransom” Jackson never dreamed of playing major league baseball while growing up in Little Rock, Ark. He never dreamed he would make two National League All-Star teams or play in a World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
|Things just worked out that way – and he’s certainly glad they did.“I never even thought about playing baseball as a profession,” Jackson admitted. “I never thought I wanted to play major league baseball. It never entered my mind growing up. It was just one of those things that happened.
“Now, when I look back on it, it was a great time. It was fun and when you’re a celebrity like that, you eat it up.”
Jackson (now 80) certainly didn’t take his 10-year major league career for granted. He just never envisioned beforehand how special his time in the big leagues would mean to him.
“I didn’t play in high school because of the war,” noted Jackson about how restrictions on high school athletics deprived many would-be athletes the satisfaction of competing in sports during World War II. “I tried to stay in baseball as long as I could so I could stay eligible for sports in college.
Randy Jackson played 10 years in the major hoverboard ebay leagues with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Indians.
“Pretty soon, though, I was offered the chance to play professional baseball. I just thought I would try it for a couple of years. It ended up being 12 years.”
Those dozen years on the diamond were indeed special to Ransom Joseph Jackson, who didn’t take up playing organized baseball until he was 19. In fact, during his college years, Jackson became a standout athlete in both baseball and football despite lacking any high school experience in either sport.
Randy Jackson (as he appeared on his 1954 Bowman baseball card)
|Upon high school graduation, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas as a member of the Navy’s officer training program. When that program was cancelled, he transferred to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.“You woke up at 5:30 in the morning and we took 20 hours of hard stuff like physics, chemistry, and all that Navy stuff,” said Jackson, who had played baseball and football on the sandlots around Little Rock. “One day, I just decided to try out for the football team.”
Legendary TCU head coach Dutch Meyer told the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Jackson to work out with the defensive lineman.
“We were throwing each other around when I looked over at the backfield,” Jackson said. “They were tossing the ball around and having a good old time. After practice, I went to Mr. Meyer and told him I wasn’t a lineman and that I wanted to be in the backfield.”
And, so it was. Jackson continued to play both ways on offense and defense – as they often did in those days. But, he proved himself to be a very capable halfback, helping TCU to the Southwest Conference title with a 7-3-1 record in 1944. The Horned Frogs lost 34-0 to Oklahoma A&M in the 1945 Cotton Bowl that season.
“We only had like 15 or 16 players on our whole team,” Jackson said.
When the officer’s training program was cancelled at TCU, Jackson was sent to the University of Texas in Austin. He was soon summoned to the office of Longhorns head coach Dana X. Bible. Word had got around that Jackson was pretty good on the gridiron back in Fort Worth.
|“He wanted me to play football for him, too,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to, though. I was up all day studying and doing things in the training program. I didn’t think I had the time but he wanted me to play. So, I did.”Texas had All-American quarterback Bobby Layne, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Longhorns went 10-1 and finished the year No. 10 in the final rankings. They beat Missouri 40-27 in the 1946 Cotton Bowl as Layne completed 11-of-12 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record .917 completion percentage.
Jackson completed a 12th pass in the second quarter. Starting at their own 31-yard line, the Longhorns scored a touchdown to go up 21-14. They covered 56 yards on a single snap when Layne lateraled the ball to Jackson, who then threw to end Hub Bechtol.
Randy Jackson (as he appeared on his 1955 Bowman baseball card)
Bechtol caught the pass at the Mizzou 29-yard line and was finally hauled down at the 13. A few plays later, Layne hit the middle and scored one of his three rushing touchdowns on the day.
“That was a real defensive game, let me tell you,” Jackson said facetiously. “It was fun.”
Jackson also had fun on the baseball field for both TCU and Texas. During his three years of collegiate baseball, he hit .500, .438, and .400.
“I led the Southwest Conference in hitting all three years,” Jackson said. “A scout from the Chicago Cubs asked me if I wanted to play professionally. I had to do something out of college. So, they flew me to Chicago and I worked out for them at Wrigley Field.”
Randy Jackson (back row, ninth from right) played for the 1949 Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League, where he hit .298 with 19 homers and 109 RBI.
|Jackson signed with Cubs before the 1948 season for $6,000 a year.“At that time, you could not go down to the minors if you were given a bonus,” Jackson explained. “I got a two-year major league contract and played two years in the minor leagues. That was big money back then.”
In ’48, Jackson played with Des Moines (Iowa) in the Class A Western League. He hit .322 in 132 games during his pro debut with 76 runs batted in, 156 hits, 31 doubles, and 100 runs scored.
In ’49, Jackson split time between Los Angeles in the Pacific Coast League and Oklahoma City in the Texas League. He hit .318 in 14 games for Los Angeles. In 138 games with OKC, Jackson hit .298 with 19 homers and 109 RBI.
He continued to climb the ladder in 1950 with Springfield (Mass.) of the International League, clubbing the ball at a .315 clip with 20 homers and 68 RBI in 117 games. That prompted a promotion to Chicago, where he hit .225 in his first 34 games as a big leaguer with the Cubs.
In ‘51, Jackson hit .275 for Chicago with 16 homers in 145 games. He set career highs with 76 RBI and 78 runs scored. He also had a career-high 153 hits and tied Brooklyn’s Duke Snider for fifth in the league with 14 stolen bases.
Jackson started to get a feel for the nuances of playing the hot corner in the National League. As a third baseman in college, he admits to being a scatter-armed fielder who left spectators wary of his throwing.
“I could catch the ball,” Jackson said, “but the fans sitting behind first base usually came with gloves on. I usually would overthrow first base.”
Thanks to some expert help from former Cubs third baseman Stan Hack, Jackson improved his fielding skills. Hack was a five-time All-Star who hit .301 with 2,193 hits in 16 years with Chicago.
|Hack led National League third basemen twice in fielding percentage in 1942 and ‘45. He managed Jackson in the minors at Des Moines and Springfield. Later, Hack also managed the Cubs from 1954 to ‘56.“He worked with me and, over time, I became better,” said Jackson, who led NL third basemen with 26 double plays in 1955. “If you have some coordination, you can get better if you just work at it. If you play so many games and take so many ground balls, pretty soon you know what you’re doing. I had some pretty good tutorage from him.”
In 1952, Jackson hit just .232 with nine homers and 34 RBI in 116 games. But, he bounced back in ‘53 by hitting .285 with 19 home runs and 66 ribbies. His eight stolen bases ranked 10th in the Senior Circuit while his eight triples tied for fifth in the league that year. Jackson also tied for sixth with nine sacrifice hits.
About the only thing that Jackson could be faulted for that year was a tendency to ground into double plays. He grounded into 20 twin-killings in ‘53, tying Monte Irvin of the New York Giants for second in the league. Only Joe Adcock with Milwaukee had more with 22.
Randy Jackson was a member of the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers, who won the National League pennant but lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Jackson tied a then-National League record by grounding into three double plays in one game on Aug. 15 against the Braves. Joe Torre now holds that record with four GIDPs during a game against the Houston Astros on July 21, 1975, when he was playing with the New York Mets.
In 1954, Jackson made his first National League All-Star team by hitting .273 with 19 homers, 67 RBI, and 77 runs scored in 126 games. He replaced starter Ray Jablonski of St. Louis and went 0-for-2 during the NL’s 11-9 loss to the American League at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. The Junior Circuit broke a four-game losing skid in the process.
In a game on April 17, 1954, against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, Jackson had perhaps his best day ever at the plate. During a wild 23-13 win, Jackson had four hits and slammed what he believes to be his longest home run ever. The ball hit an apartment building on Waveland Avenue.
“That home run hit the third floor of the building,” Jackson remembered. “That was a long way. Back in those days, they didn’t measure home runs or how fast a pitcher threw. They didn’t keep statistics like they do now. But, it was definitely one of my longest home runs. Gosh, it was far!”
Randy Jackson (as he appeared on his 1957 Topps baseball card)
|In ’55, Jackson earned his second straight All-Star berth thanks to hitting .265 with a career-high 21 homers, 70 RBI, and 73 runs scored in 138 games. As backup to Eddie Mathews of the Braves, he went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored during the National League’s 6-5 win at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. Stan Musial of the Cards won the game in the bottom of the 12th inning with a leadoff home run.“It’s quite an honor to be selected,” Jackson said of his All-Star experiences. “It’s a popularity deal to a certain extent but you have to have some pretty good numbers to get there. An awful lot of players have played in the majors who never got to play in an All-Star Game. I enjoyed it.”
The Dodgers won their first and only World Series in 1955 by beating the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, Jackson’s Cubs were mired near the bottom of the standings each year – finishing no better than fifth place in the NL at 77-77 in 1952.
“I spent the winter of ’55 in Chicago just to try it,” Jackson said. “It was the worst winter I ever experienced – cold, windy, miserable, everything. In December, I got a call from a sports writer friend of mine and he said I had been traded.”
The Dodgers traded third baseman Don Hoak, pitcher Russ Meyer, and outfielder Walt Moryn to Chicago on Dec. 9 for Jackson and pitcher Don Elston. After years of playing losing baseball, Jackson suddenly found himself with a contender.
“I couldn’t believe it because my last two years were pretty good for the Cubs,” Jackson said. “When my friend told me I was traded to the Dodgers, I told him I thought he was lying through his teeth. Everybody’s ambition was to play in the World Series and there are hundreds and hundreds of guys who had good years who never played in the World Series. It was probably the biggest thrill of my career to be traded from a last-place team to a first-place team.”
Brooklyn again won the NL pennant in ‘56, going 93-61 before losing to the Yanks in the World Series. Jackson contributed a .274 average in 101 games to the winning cause. He went hitless during the Series in three pinch-hit trips to the plate.
“We won the pennant and played in the World Series,” Jackson said. “That’s what I always wanted. My roommate most of the time was Roger Craig. Playing for (manager) Walter Alston was the best. It was just a great bunch of guys and a tremendous experience.”
The Dodgers acquired Jackson from the Cubs as a replacement for Jackie Robinson, who was Rookie of the Year in 1947 after breaking the color barrier. He ended his Hall of Fame career in ’56 after winning an MVP award in 1949 and helping Brooklyn to six NL pennants and one World Series title in 10 seasons.
|But, Jackson suffered a serious knee injury in 1957 and never again played on a regular basis. In a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he hit a ball in the hole toward short. The throw to Pittsburgh first baseman Frank Thomas was high and he stretched to get it as Jackson was crossing the bag.On his way down, Thomas landed on Jackson’s head, causing Jackson to awkwardly bend his left knee backwards. Nothing broke, but Jackson was in the hospital for almost a week and was laid up in a cast for nearly a month.
Jackson hit .198 in just 48 games for Brooklyn in ’57 – spending 68 days on the disabled list due to his injured knee. In ’58, after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, he hit .185 in 35 games before being sold to the Cleveland Indians in early August. With the Tribe that year, Jackson hit .242 in 29 games.
Jackson’s final year in the big leagues was 1959. He hit .235 in 44 games after being traded back to the Cubbies for pitcher Bob Smith in May. For his career, Jackson hit .261 with 103 homers, 415 RBI, 412 runs scored, 835 hits, 115 doubles, and 44 triples in 955 games. He had a .955 career fielding percentage at third base.
The decade of the 1950s was a glorious one for the National League. Many of the game’s all-time greats were in uniform during that time such as Musial, Snider, Mathews, Robinson and many others. At the time, Jackson just blended in and never pondered the importance that era would have on baseball.
Randy Jackson (as he appeared on his 1958 Topps baseball card)
But, he thinks about it now on occasion. He particularly recognizes perhaps the biggest difference between the game today and how it was then – player salaries.
“Playing in the 1950s was different because there were only eight teams in each league,” Jackson said. “Nobody was paid any money compared to what the players get paid today. There were only a couple of guys making $100,000 a year and they were Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. The most I made was $21,000 a year. Today, guys make more in one game than I did in a season.”
Randy Jackson (as he appeared on his 1959 Topps baseball card with the Indians)
|While he was with the Dodgers, Jackson roomed with the aforementioned Craig and former fireballer Don Drysdale, a Hall of Fame pitcher who passed away in 1993. Jackson, who now lives in Athens, Ga., met up with Drysdale for a game at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium when Drysdale was a broadcaster.“He was doing a game in Atlanta and I met him at his hotel,” Jackson said. “We talked and we watched the players. I thought there were a lot of them that couldn’t play back in the 1950s.”
With 30 teams now dotting the American landscape, major league baseball has many more job opportunities available for aspiring ballplayers. The utilization of pitching staffs now has also changed dramatically from when Jackson performed.
“You have so many teams that there is room for more players,” Jackson said. “When I played, they didn’t keep you on the roster because you were a nice guy. We didn’t have guys who pitched five innings, another that pitched two, or another that pitched one. You saw starters go longer than they do today. It was just a different game back then when I played.”
Jackson played side-by-side with Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks for a couple of years. Banks (an 11-time All-Star) broke in with Chicago in September of 1953. He eventually won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and ’59 and amassed a lifetime average of .274 with 512 home runs and 1,636 RBI.
Banks and second baseman Gene Baker were the first two black players to play for the Cubs. Jackson said it was an honor to play with both men.
“I never played with blacks before,” Jackson said. “Ernie and Gene were the first two to come to the Cubs and were just great guys. Ernie was one of the nicest guys you ever met. We played together for a couple of seasons and you could tell he had a great future ahead of him. He was a very modest person and enjoyable.”
The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945 and have not won a world championship since 1908. Jackson would like to see that change soon.
|“The front office was not very smart when I was with Chicago,” Jackson said. “The Cubs were always getting guys that other teams didn’t want. We just didn’t have the material to contend. But, Cubs fans have to be the best in the world. It’s a shame the Cubs never win because they deserve it.”Jackson thought Warren Spahn, Robin Roberts, and Sal Maglie were three of the toughest pitchers for him to hit during his career. “On certain days, though,” he added, “most anybody that walked out there would give me trouble.”
Today, Jackson is officially retired but still works a little with life and health insurance. He has been married to his second wife Terry for 33 years. He has three sons (Randy, Rusty, and Chuck) and three daughters (Ann, Meredith, and Ginny) along with 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Randy Jackson takes a perfect peg and forces Whitey Lockman of the New York Giants at third base during a contest in 1952. Jackson led National League third basemen in double plays with 26 in 1955. His lifetime .955 fielding percentage at the hot corner is very respectable. Jackson credits former Cub legend Stan Hack with his fielding improvement at the major league level.
“About 15 years ago,” Jackson said, “they had an autograph signing and reunion in New York. They tried to get all the living Brooklyn Dodgers together. I think they figured there were 85 still alive – and we had 55 there. We lose about two or three a year. There’s just not a whole lot of guys left who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.”
Maybe not. But, while more former Brooklyn Dodgers will be sadly lost in the future, one thing is for sure. Guys like Jackson may come and go. But, they’ll certainly never be forgotten.