Kansas City Royals legend Bo Jackson hit his first major league home run at Kauffman Stadium 30 years ago. This majestic shot traveled 475 feet and is still the longest home run hit in Kansas City’s 43-year-old home park.
Thirty years ago plus one week, multi-sport star Bo Jackson hit his first home run in a KC Royals uniform. But, just any old home run wouldn’t do. Not for Bo Jackson. The former college Heisman Trophy winner had to hit the longest home run in Kauffman Stadium history.
It was really the first of a long string of crazy highlights to come.
Bo Jackson shocked the sports world when the first pick of the 1986 NFL Draft turned down the NFL to play baseball with the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals. Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse flew Bo Jackson to Tampa Bay on a private jet after making him the first overall pick. However, he lied to Jackson about vetting the flight with the NCAA. As a result, Jackson lost his baseball eligibility.
The duplicity enraged Jackson, who believes to this day that Culverhouse robbed him of his baseball eligibility on purpose. Instead of signing with the Buccaneers, Jackson instructed his agent to tell the Kansas City Royals that he wanted to play baseball.
Unsure whether Bo Jackson was using playing for Kansas City as a negotiating ploy, the Royals waited until the fifth round to select him in the 1986 June draft. Much to everyone’s surprise, Bo Jackson signed a deal and accepted an assignment to AA Memphis.
Bo Jackson told ESPN’s The Undefeated about his mother’s reluctance for him to play football:
"”My mother was against it. She was afraid I’d get hurt,” Jackson said. “And she’d sometimes lock me out of the house when I came home from practice.”"
With the KC Royals out of playoff contention, they called up their athletic phenom to give fans a glimpse of Bo Jackson’s talents in September. The 475 foot home run that he mashed off of Seattle Mariners pitcher Mike Moore gave baseball fans a taste of what was to come.
Jackson recalled the blast for The Undefeated:
"“I knew it would come,” Jackson said after the game. “It was a flat slider and I was using the bat I’d used in batting practice. It was one of Willie Wilson’s bats that I’d taken from his rack.”"
"“That ball was hit well over 500 feet,” said then-Royals manager Mike Ferraro. “I was in awe. It was simply amazing.”“I haven’t seen many like that, no sir, but I believe he hit it every foot. I think they’re being conservative in the distance,” said then-Mariners manager Dick Williams."
Bo Jackson was an insanely gifted athlete. Even 30 years later, there’s nothing like him today. He possessed Hall-Of-Fame gifts in both football and baseball. Unfortunately, his desire to play both sports, and a crippling hip injury suffered in the 1991 NFL playoffs, derailed his careers in both football and baseball.
Though he did return to baseball with the Chicago White Sox after that injury suffered while playing for the Los Angeles Raiders, he was never the same. Bo endured hip necrosis, caused by a lack of blood flow to his hip socket. The former world class sprinter ran with a limp for the rest of his career.
Bo Jackson’s career is a sad tale of what might have been. He made both the NFL Pro Bowl as a running back for the Raiders, and the 1989 All-Star game as an outfielder for the Royals. If you’re too young to remember him, click on my story about his ten greatest plays in a Kansas City uniform. You won’t believe your eyes.