Bo Jackson was an athlete that few could match. He was fast and powerful on the football field. He was fast and powerful on the baseball diamond. His throwing arm is now legendary.
This video demonstrates his abilities nicely:
In 1987, Bo hit 22 homers. In 1988, he hit 25.
At the break in 1989, he had 21 already. He’d stolen 23 bases. Fans made him the top vote-getter. He was a phenom.
As if the legend wasn’t big enough, he built on it by his performance in the game. In the first inning, the National League had already scored twice and had runners on second and third with two outs. Pedro Guerrero hit a flair to left-center, but Bo tracked it down to end the inning.
Then he hit the second pitch from Rick Reuschel about three or four miles – okay not that far, but it was a blast to straight away center. Tony LaRussa had put him at leadoff to get the team started right away. Wade Boggs followed with a homer of his own and a memorable All-Star Game was underway. Vin Scully’s call was fantastic. “Bo Jackson says ‘Hello!’ … He almost hit that out of the state.” President Ronald Reagan was calling the first inning with Scully and suggested that Reagan could fly back to Washington on Bo’s blast.
Bo got another run home by grounding to shortstop with one out and runners on first and third, but he ran it out and kept the inning going while Ruben Sierra scored. Jackson then stole second, becoming the first player to homer and steal a base in an All-Star Game. The throw got away and he advanced to third (though he was stranded).
He singled in his third at bat but was again stranded and struck out in his final at bat (against Mark Davis in an interesting blending of Royals names).
Bo’s efforts helped lead the AL to a 5-3 win and Jackson was the first (and so far only) Royal to be the MVP of the All-Star Game.
After the break, Bo added 11 more homers and finished 1989 with 32 and looked a developing superstar. He added 28 homers in 1990, cut his strike outs and looked to be developing as a player.
Of course, the rest of the story is known by about everyone. Bo injured his hip playing in the NFL and ended up released by the Royals before the 1991 season. He only played 183 games from 1992 to 1994 and was never the same. He’s one of the biggest “what if” players in sports history.