Bo Jackson was born Nov. 30, 1962, in the town of Bessemer, Alabama. His famous nickname was due to his wild troublesome nature growing up. Originally called "wild boar" by his family, his nickname was shortened to the now famous "Bo". Jackson focused on sports as a way to manage is wildness, especially at McAdory High School in McCalla, Alabama. While excelling in any sport that he focused on, Jackson claimed two state decathlon championships. As a senior, he ran for 1,173 yards on 108 carries (10.9 average) and scored 17 touchdowns in football, and slammed 20 home runs in 25 games in baseball.
Jackson's skill at playing baseball drew the attention of the New York Yankees who drafted him in the 1981. Jackson describes the reason why he decided not to play with the Yankees:
I was a pitcher, shortstop and outfielder, and the Yankees tried to sign me out of high school as a first-round draft pick in 1981. I turned them down to go to college.
Jackson attended Auburn University from 1982-1985 on a sports scholarship. In his freshman year Bo averaged 6.4 yards per rush, sprinted a 6.18 second-yard dash for the track team, and hit .279 as the starting centerfielder in baseball. Jackson's best year in college came in 1985 which saw Jackson lead the nation in all four main categories of ball-carrying as late as the eighth week of the season. At that point, he was tops in total rushing yardage, average per carry, touchdowns scored, and yards-per-game. His performance that season led to Jackson winning both the Walter Camp Award for the exceptional collegiate player of the year and the Heisman Trophy for the most outstanding college football player. Jackson was drafted with the number one pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986. When told to choose between baseball and football, Jackson chose to sign with the Kansas City Royals, who had drafted him in the fourth round (105 overall) in the 1986 amateur draft (Jackson would be drafted once again for the NFL, this time with the seventh pick by the Los Angeles Raiders who allowed Jackson to play both sports)
It didn't take long for Bo to grace the field at Kauffman Stadium. Bo was called up by the Royals by the middle of the 1986 season and played some of the most exciting baseball for the next 5 seasons with his best season being 1989. Bo had a batting average of .256 with 132 hits (15 2B, 6 3B, 32 HR) and 105 RBI with 26 SB. Bo also had an OBP of .310 and a SLG% of .495 for an OPS of .810 in 135 games. To me, the memorable moment of that season came in the All-Star game. The game was played in Anaheim and while leading off for the American League team against San Francisco's Rick Reuschel, Bo hit a monster shot earning him the honor of All-Star MVP in his only All-Star appearance.
Alas, it was while playing his other sport that led to his demise. Bo Jackson suffered a hip injury on January 13, 1991 in a playoff game for the then Los Angeles Raiders against the Cincinnati Bengals. Bo would never again play football and made a comeback in baseball after receiving hip replacement surgery playing for the Chicago White Sox earning the Tony Conigliaro Award in 1993 which is given by the Boston Chapter of Baseball Writers Association of America in cooperation with the Boston Red Sox Baseball Club to a Major League Baseball player who overcomes adversity through spirit, determination and courage — trademarks of Lynn, Mass., native and Boston Red Sox hero Tony Conigliaro. Bo would play one more season with then California Angels in 1994 before retiring. Here are Bo's career numbers:
Nostalgia is a big part of what it is to be a Baseball fan. Remembering moments in time whether real or not are what makes the game invaluable to fans like me. Though Bo's career numbers are not much to look at, I'll choose to remember his tape measure homeruns, his running up and down outfield walls, his "Bo Knows" commercials and (in a non baseball memory), the image of Bo Jackson mowing down Brian Bosworth of the Seattle Seahawks on his way to a touchdown on Monday Night Football in 1988. Bo was the man and unfortunately for us, injuries cut his career short. What could have been. Not even Bo knows that.
For Further Reading
- For the official Bo Jackson website, click here
- For Bo Jackson's career baseball statistics from Baseballcube.com, click here
- For Bo Jackson's page on Baseball-reference.com, click here
- For an ESPN Sports Century article on Bo Jackson, click here
- For Bo Jackson's Heisman Trophy Page, click here