Grant Jackson, Relief Pitcher for Six Teams, Dies at 78

3 weeks ago
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A left-hander, he had a 3-0 record in the postseason, including the victory in Game 7 of the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died of complications of Covid-19.

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Pitching in the 1979 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates — a freewheeling team whose theme song was Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” — Grant Jackson was splendid.

Jackson, a left-handed reliever, had given up no runs in the Pirates’ three Series losses to the Baltimore Orioles when he entered the decisive Game 7 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Baltimore was leading, 1-0, with two outs and two runners on base. Jackson retired eight Orioles in a row before walking two men in the eighth — by then the Pirates had pulled ahead — and was relieved by the closer, Kent Tekulve.

The Pirates won the game, 4-1, and the Series. With his two and two-thirds innings of relief, Jackson earned the win.

“Even after we got down 3-1 in the Series, it bothered our fans but it didn’t bother us,” he told The Toledo Blade in 2005. “We knew we had a better team than the Orioles.”

Jackson, who pitched for five other teams, including the Orioles, in his 18-year career, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Canonsburg, Pa. He was 78.

The cause was complications of Covid-19, his family said.

With a sinking fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, Jackson compiled an 86-75 record and had a 3.46 earned run average and 79 saves over 18 seasons.

Grant Dwight Jackson was born on Sept. 28, 1942, in Fostoria, Ohio, near Toledo. His father, Joseph, worked in a foundry; his mother, Luella (Talmadge) Jackson, was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990 for her work as a teacher’s aide, and for opening her home to delinquent youths.

Grant played baseball in high school and, after graduating, contacted a Philadelphia Phillies scout, who signed him for $ 1,500. (He learned, after signing, that two other teams would have paid him $ 35,000.) In the minor leagues he was primarily a starter, but with the Phillies he toggled between relieving and starting.

He made the 1969 National League League All-Star team as a starter but did not play.

Following his trade from Philadelphia to Baltimore after the 1970 season, he nearly always came out of the bullpen. He won Game 4 of the 1973 American League Championship Series for the Orioles with two and two-thirds innings of relief against the Oakland A’s.

After Baltimore traded him to the Yankees midway through the 1976 season, Jackson posted a 6-0 record with a 1.69 E.R.A. Two of those wins came in rare starts, including an 8-0 shutout over Detroit late in the season.

He began playing for Pittsburgh the next season and remained there until September 1981. Over the next year, he pitched for Montreal, Kansas City and, again, Pittsburgh, with whom he pitched his final two-thirds of an inning.

After his playing days, he coached for the Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds and several minor league teams.

He is survived by his wife, Milagro (Quinones) Jackson, known as Millie; his daughters, Debra Edwards and Yolanda Belli; his son, Grant Jr.; 10 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his sisters, Linda Anderson, Joan Pinskey and Charlotte Gilbert.

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