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R. Jackson, meet R. Jackson

R. Jackson, Oakland (bats left, throws left), is a utility man hitting .199. By coincidence, there was an R. Jackson who rapped out 47 home runs for Oakland last year. Reggie Jackson also had great speed, an arm, good fielding and wide popularity, not just for his ability but also for his personality. This year's R. Jackson mostly has had an invitation to a steak fry on Owner Charlie O. Finley's farm (which he rejected), wife trouble, the fans on his back and a $47,000 contract, which he has been invited to take with him down to Des Moines. R. Jackson at first rejected that offer, too. Profanely.

Cards and letters have been coming in, asking if the two Jacksons are related. The surprising answer is, in one word: yes. In fact, some very good clues identify them as One and the Same.

For an instance, ever since Finley decreed that Jackson be sat down against left-handed pitchers, opposing managers have juggled rotations so that the A's see nothing but lefthanders. Finley may not want Jackson in the lineup, but managers whose teams have to face him want him in it even less. Besides, last year's superstar has not wilted all that thoroughly. He does have eight home runs and 10 stolen bases, and against Chicago he was on base eight times in 15 at bats. Five were walks, which only indicates that pitchers would rather see him on first than at home. He still hits impossibly long drives in practice.

At least as significantly, Jackson seems to have put aside the bitterness clouding his sunny, nice-guy nature. He accepts demeaning roles as pinch runner and defensive replacement without glowering, and he has even pitched batting practice, where he showed a pretty good curve. He flew to Tempe, Ariz. when his briefly separated wife contracted hepatitis, and now he is hinting that he could change his mind about going to the minors. "I'm trying, really trying," Jackson says. "Maybe too hard. But the slump has made me a better person. You learn to be a man all over again."

The players are on Jackson's side. When Finley threatened to send him down, there was a spontaneous gathering round Jackson in the clubhouse. "He's not dogging it," says one player, "and he has a sense of humor. He's dying inside, but do you know what he did when we left Anaheim? He went around offering to take care of the luggage. He saluted for an imaginary tip, just like a redcap. I had to laugh. It was kinda funny, you know. I mean he didn't sulk or quit."