The occasional power-hitting outfielder is not foreign to the KC Royals, but having two at once was infrequent until these two mashers came along.
From the franchise inception in 1969 until 1986 the KC Royals only had one outfield combination that hit 40 or more home runs in a season. That was Al Cowens and Amos Otis who hit exactly 40 while playing the outfield together in 1977.
The team was often constructed to be able to cover the vast acreage at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Quick, speedy guys generally do not translate to high power numbers. In many instances, the team would be fortunate to have one outfielder reach double digits in bombs.
This all changed back in 1987. Danny Tartabull was acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners and he was coming off a monster rookie year. The Royals had also selected a certain Heisman Trophy winner who decided he would rather take a chance at baseball than play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who drafted him first overall in the 1986 NFL draft. Bo Jackson spent 53 games in Double-A before Kansas City promoted him to majors.
The magic clicked right away in 1987 as they combined to send 56 balls out of the park, still the most ever for two outfielders in Royals history. Not only did Tartabull hit 34 of those, but he also slashed .309/.390/.541 in one of the best individual seasons for Kansas City.
In 1988, Jackson improved from his rookie year cutting back on strikeouts, raising his batting average by 11 points, and falling short of leading the team in homers to Tartabull by one, 26 to 25. Those 51 combined blasts rank number three overall in team history for an outfield duo.
Bo continued to grow his offensive skills crushing 32 blasts while bumping his average up another 10 points. Tartabull had an off-year only clubbing 18 homers and recording his worst OPS in the four-year stretch this tandem was together. Their total home run output in 1989 is the fourth-best in franchise history for outfielders.
The 1990 season saw another drop-off, mainly due to Tartabull only able to participate in 88 games. Jackson continued to smash the ball hitting another 28 dingers but the combined total of 43 was their lowest output ever.
Unfortunately, this is where this chapter in Royals’ history ends as Jackson would suffer a football injury that prompted Kansas City to release him before the 1991 season. He would play a handful of games with the White Sox that year before having hip surgery and did earn Comeback Player of the Year in 1993.
Tartabull returned to solid form the next season with his highest OPS+ ever of 171. He smashed 31 home runs and led the majors with a .593 slugging percentage in what would be his last season with the KC Royals.
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It was a short window of success but in the four years Jackson and Tartabull roamed the outfield together, they showed they were beasts among men.