Keep your KC Royals ticket stub: Two-sport stars collide

The day Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders put on a show.
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It was only a matter of time before Keep Your KC Royals Ticket Stub got to this game. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were iconic athletes. Neither was ever considered the best player in baseball, though Jackson was probably the most talented and athletically gifted, but they stood out because they excelled in two professional sports, baseball and football. Both on and off the field, Bo and "Prime Time" were unlike any athletes since, and on July 17, 1990, the two of them put on a show at Yankees Stadium that the baseball world is still talking about.

Bo Jackson made the KC Royals relevant again

Neither the Yankees nor the Royals were particularly good in 1990. Both teams were in the cellars of their respective decisions when they met that July. Yet the baseball world turned its attention to the Bronx, and not just because the Yankees were always front page news. Jackson and the Royals were coming to town, and the three-game series promised to put a spotlight on two of the game's most unique stars.

This wasn't the first time Jackson and Sanders met on the field. That occurred a few years earlier when Jackson was playing college football at Auburn and Sanders was a freshman at Florida State. Sanders was an elite cover corner, but he was never much of a tackler. On his one chance to take down Jackson, the freshman appeared to pull back. Jackson ran through him and tossed him forcefully to the ground, perhaps to send a message.

Their first MLB meeting came the night before but proved relatively uneventful. Jackson went 0-3 with a walk, while Sanders went 1-4. Both of them scored a run, and the Yankees won 3-2. The real fireworks came in game two.

Jackson broke out in a big way in 1989, putting together his best season for a good Royals team. He still had plenty of holes in his game, but he went from being an athletic freak capable of doing amazing things occasionally to a legitimate big-league ball player. As he continued his development, even doubters were coming around to the fact he had the potential to be an all-time great. Stepping into the spotlight of the Bronx against Sanders, then in his first full MLB season, he did everything he could to show he was the real superstar.

Facing Andy Hawkins in his first at-bat, with George Brett on first, Jackson drilled a rocket to straightaway center. The ball just cleared the wall and a leaping Sanders' glove, and Jackson trotted around the bases. The Royals led 2-0 in the first.

The Yankees cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the third, when Hawkins gave up another home run to Bill Pecota. After recording two outs, Hawkins walked Brett again and Jackson blasted a no-doubter into the right-center bleachers. The announcers could only express their astonishment and even the Yankee crowd was awed into silence by Jackson's power. The Royals led, 5-1.

In the top of the fifth inning, Jackson came up to bat to face Hawkins once again, with two runners already on base. He hit a strong shot over the right-field wall, making it his third home run of the night and forcing Hawkins out of the game. At this point, the Royals were leading 8-1, and it seemed like Jackson's performance was the highlight of the game.

Or so it seemed. The Royals bullpen let the Yankees back into it, and Sanders was determined to have his moment as well. In the bottom of the sixth, he stepped into face Mel Stottlemyre. The score was 8-5, and Alvaro Espinoza was on third.

Sanders ripped a liner to center and Jackson charged. It was the sort of highlight reel catch Jackson regularly made look routine, but on this night, he dove and missed. And worst of all, he separated his shoulder. Sanders rounded the bases with his elite speed, and Pat Tabler's throw home got past Mike Macfarlane just as Sanders went airborne over the catcher. He missed home plate at first, and the ball caromed back to Macfarlane, resulting in a mad scramble. Sanders got his hand to the plate first though, and it was scored as an electric inside-the-park home run.

Did Sanders get the last laugh then? Debatable. Jackson was done for the night, replaced by Willie Wilson, who added two RBI of his own to Jackson's seven, and the Royals held on for a 10-7 victory. Of course, six months later Jackson suffered a much worse injury on the football field. He eventually made it back to the baseball diamond, but not as a Royal and the trajectory of his promising career was dramatically altered and cut short.

Sanders had a long and relatively successful baseball career, the peak of which was with some outstanding Braves teams in the '90s, but he was never the same kind of star on the baseball field as he was on the gridiron. He became a Hall-of-Fame defensive back, and is now the head coach at the University of Colorado, but he still occasionally laments that he was never able to fully master baseball.

Both players never fully reached their potential in baseball, but they had their moments of brilliance. That night in the Bronx, their stars shone incredibly bright. It can be argued that this was the night they both went supernova, considering what lay in store for them from that moment onwards.

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