“You know what?”, teammate Frank White once said of Jackson, “I really did play baseball with Superman.”
Bo Jackson didn’t wear a cape, but he did seem like Superman at times during his baseball career. Jackson may have been the greatest athlete of all-time, earning All-Star status in MLb and All-Pro selections in the National Football League. Jackson played both sports professionally from 1987-1990, for the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Raiders. He accumulated a collection of highlights in both sports that still marvel fans. Jackson could run over defenders on the gridiron, chase down flyballs in the outfield, burst for a 50-yard touchdown, and blast home runs that seemed to travel forever. He was one of the most exciting athletes to ever compete.
In his very first major league at-bat, against Steve Carlton and the White Sox on September 2, 1986, Jackson hit a routine grounder to second base and easily beat it out for an infield hit. “Nothing that big should move that fast,” marveled Kansas City hitting coach John Mayberry.
Bo combined that blazing speed with tremendous strength and power. He hit more than 20 homrs in each of his four full seasons with the Royals, peaking with 32 in 1989. He was a 20/20 man (stealing at least 20 bases and hitting at least 20 homers) in ’88 and ’89. He played left field next to speedster Willie Wilson, giving Kansas City one of the quickest outfields in the big leagues. He amazed spectators and teammates with his strength – frequently snapping bats as if they were toothpicks after his strikeouts. In an era before steroids were an issue, Bo knew strength through natural means.
Jackson overcame a hip injury suffered with the Raiders in the NFL and returned to the major leagues after receiving an artificial hip. Though he could no longer run as well as he did in his prime, Jackson hit 29 homers after the return in two seasons for the Chicago White Sox and California Angels. In †his first at-bat after returning from the hop replacement, on April 9, 1993, against the Yankees at Comiskey Park, Bo slugged a home run off Neal Heaton.
In one of the most dramatic moments of his baseball career, Jackson hit a leadoff homer in the 1989 All-Star Game off Rick Reuschel in Anaheim. He was named MVP of the game.
Fewest At-Bats per Strikeout, All-Time
Jack Cust … 2.57
Mark Reynolds … 2.61
Russell Branyan … 2.62
Rob Deer … 2.75
Bo Jackson … 2.85
(Minimum 2,000 plate appearances)