Why Bo Jackson so deserves his new place in the KC Royals Hall of Fame

The amazing Jackson is joining the club's Hall.
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Wednesday's news that the KC Royals have selected Bo Jackson for their Hall of Fame evoked memories in my mind that, to be honest, have never lurked far below the surface. I remember well the day the Royals drafted the Auburn football star; to say the pick, which came out of the blue during the fourth round of the 1986 amateur draft, shocked baseball probably overstates the magnitude of the event.

After all, Jackson and the game had been there, done that — the Yankees picked him in the 1982 draft, and the Angels in 1985. Not surprisingly, Jackson turned both clubs down and stuck with college football. The notion that someone would pick him in '86 was plausible, but few, if any, really expected him to spurn the National Football League for the "other" sport he played at Auburn; baseball seemed but a sideline venture for Jackson, something to feed his competitive juices and keep him occupied until college football season rolled back around.

But what the Royals did in drafting Jackson just a season after winning their first World Series title was a shock, but of Jackson's making, not theirs. Defying the prognosticators who dismissed the very idea of drafting Jackson as pure folly and a wasted venture, Jackson did the unthinkable and signed — actually signed — a contract to play baseball.

Count me among the initial skeptics, not because I believed Jackson to be insincere, just another about-to-be professional athlete trying to game the system and coax more money out of the NFL with the threat of playing baseball instead of football. No, my skepticism arose from the view that further developing and refining his raw baseball skills was too long a road to hoe for a magnificently gifted football star whose skill set for that game was complete.

I just didn't know Bo, did I?

Bo Jackson hit the ground running with the KC Royals

Jackson affixed his name to his first baseball contract and headed immediately for Memphis, then Kansas City's Double-A affiliate, where the seven home runs he hit, 25 runs he drove in, and .277 he batted in 53 games without the benefit of breaking in at a lower level earned him a trip to the majors. The September roster-expansion call-up came just in time for Jackson to play in 25 games for the Royals; that he hit only .207 wasn't particularly unnerving because he'd never seen the kind of pitching big league hurlers offered up. Still, he managed the first two homers of his big league career.

The rest is, as they say, history. Jackson couldn't resist the NFL and ended up playing both sports for much of his eight major league seasons. He thrilled all of baseball with his exhilarating exploits — the epic homers (including the one he slammed on his way to becoming the MVP of the 19889 All-Star Game), the incredible defensive plays he made look routine (including his famous '89 throw from the old Kingdome's left field corner that beat Harold Reynolds to the plate) remain vivid in my mind.

And there are, of course, other interesting moments in his career KC fans can recall and enjoy, including the mammoth homer he hit off Nolan Ryan in 1989.

To recount today everything Jackson did on the baseball and football fields, though, is unnecessary; his accomplishments on both are well-chronicled and legendary. Nor does today's news require fully detailing the hip injury that ultimately derailed both his careers.

It's enough for present purposes to say that Jackson, who played for the Royals from 1986 until they released him during spring training in 1991, deserves the honor of joining the club's Hall of Fame. Although the numbers he put up as a Royal aren't striking — he clubbed 109 homers with 313 RBI and 81 stolen bases, and hit only .250 (for his career, the numbers were 141, 415, .250) — what he gave the club, its fans, and Kansas City itself entitle him to a place in the Royals' Hall.

Does Bo Jackson deserve enshrinement in the Royals Hall of Fame?

Some may question the selection, saying his stats don't merit the honor. But Jackson was and is a one-in-a-million Royal, the kind of player and person the franchise and city will always cherish. He loved the game and it loved him, he played with an abandon paralleled only by Royals like George Brett, and made Kansas City proud for more than just his baseball acumen. In short, he fits the club's threshold criteria for enshrinement as a player who "...made exceptional contributions to Kansas City Royals baseball, both on and off the field."

I am old enough to have personally witnessed Jackson play, and for that I'm lucky.

And Kansas City will always be lucky for the Bo Jackson experience. Just ask Brett, who had this to say in the club's announcement of his teammate and friend's selection: "He was a great teammate and probably the most exciting player I ever played with. You'd see things that no other human could do on a baseball field or a football field. He's one of the greatest athletes of our time, and it's an honor to welcome him to the Royals Hall of Fame, where he belongs."

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