July 12, 2010
Bo Jackson pulls into the parking lot of the fitness center he owns in a black Cadillac Escalade with a license plate that reads “Broke.” He steps out of the car, looks down, cringes and asks business partner Jim Thompson if he has seen the skid marks. “Damn kids!” Jackson says. “Nobody is supervising their kids. I would love to get my hands on them.”
Jackson’s voice trails off, but his menacing look remains. He might have retired from professional sports 16 years ago and might be 35 pounds heavier than during his playing days, but nobody messes with Bo.
“I hear people say, ‘Don’t go up and talk to him, because he’s an —-hole,” Jackson says. “I actually like that, because I know nobody’s going to bother me.”
Jackson redefined the modern athlete and is the only person to be an All-Star in professional baseball and an all-pro in football, but the 47-year-old has no need for team sports these days. He has attended a handful of baseball games and not one NFL game in the last 17 years, but this week he is making an exception.
Jackson is returning to Anaheim, Calif., where 21 years ago his popularity and powers might have reached their heights when he captivated the nation with his performance in the 1989 All-Star Game and entertained it with his groundbreaking “Bo knows” commercial. Now he is back to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday for the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).
Nike, which calls Jackson the “godfather” of the company, is commemorating the event by launching a new cross-trainer shoe. It features a baseball shooting out of “Bo” with the number 448, signifying the distance of one of the most dramatic homers in All-Star history.
“People following the game already knew what he could do,” former All-Star second baseman Harold Reynolds says, “but that was a coming-out party for the rest of the world. He did things no one has ever seen before. We talk about Stephen Strasburg and LeBron James and all of the hype with those guys. Can you imagine if Bo Jackson played now what the hype would be?”
Jackson, 27, was appearing in his first and only All-Star Game. It was the fourth year of a baseball career made more notable when Jackson, the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, initially eschewed a pro football career. When he did opt for the NFL, signing with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1987, he famously said the sport would be “a hobby.”
Still, he had decided to end his four-year NFL career after the 1991 playoffs, but the choice was made for him Jan. 13, 1991, when he suffered a dislocated left hip in a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He had hip surgery, and a diagnosis of avascular necrosis and hip-replacement surgery followed later that year. The Kansas City Royals, who drafted and signed him in 1986, released him before the 1991 season; injury-marred stints with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels produced occasional highlight-reel home runs, but Jackson never played again after major leaguers went on strike in August 1994.
As quick as Jackson had become a global icon, he was gone. Jackson says he never intended to play pro sports beyond 34 and nowadays limits his activities to playing golf (six handicap), hunting and fishing when not operating the Bo Jackson Sports Enterprise training facility.
“I’ve got my own little corner of the world where I hang out right here,” says Jackson, who lives in Burr Ridge, Ill., 18 miles southwest of Chicago. “My circle of friends is very, very small. I don’t do the bar scene. I don’t do the club scene. If I want to have a drink, I’ll do it right there in my house. That’s just who I am.
“I love where I am in my life. I’m in a very happy place. A cool place. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
For at least that one evening in Anaheim, nobody was cooler than Bo.
Homer turns heads
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, then with the Oakland Athletics, set the stage for the drama in the 1989 All-Star Game. La Russa, manager of the American League team, and pitching coach Dave Duncan were in a quandary, having sluggers such as Mark McGwire, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ruben Sierra but lacking a leadoff hitter. Jackson had the speed but struck out too often for the Royals to bat him leadoff.
La Russa, on Duncan’s advice, asked Jackson, who agreed but didn’t let La Russa in on a secret.
“I was playing with a strained hamstring,” says Jackson, a left fielder. “I pulled it 2 1/2, three weeks earlier, but (trainer) Mickey Cobb and I kept it quiet.”
The AL already was down 2-0 in the first inning, and it could have been worse if Jackson had not saved two runs on a two-out running catch on a ball hit by Pedro Guerrero.
“We needed something, and I wanted Bo to make things happen,” La Russa says. “I didn’t know he was going to start it off like that.”
Jackson, facing San Francisco Giants pitcher Rick Reuschel, was down 0-and-2 when he swung for the first time. He crushed a low-and-inside fastball to center field. Jackson says he thought he hit it too high, but it carried. And carried. It didn’t land until it hit halfway up the black tarp in the center-field bleachers, 448 feet from home plate.
“It was a sound I’ll never forget,” says Mark Gubicza, a pitcher for the AL team and Jackson’s teammate with the Royals. “It was like an explosion. Then you heard all of the oohs and aahs like they were watching fireworks. It was something they had never seen in their lives.
When Jackson returned to the dugout, he looked at Puckett, who stared at him until he finally broke out laughing. “Kirby says, ‘Jack? Jack? Damn. Damn.’ ” Jackson says. “Then he says, ‘Can you hit for me, too?’ ”
The stadium was rocking when Wade Boggs followed with a homer, marking the first time in All-Star history a team opened the game with consecutive shots. National League manager Tommy Lasorda screamed to get pitchers warming up in the bullpen.
“I was still going crazy at the sound of that bat speed,” NL pitcher Rick Sutcliffe says. “I had never heard anything like it before. I’ve never heard anything like it again.
“But when Boggs hit that homer, Lasorda is yelling for John Smoltz and I to get to the bullpen. Here we are, enjoying a cup of coffee, and Lasorda has us sprinting toward the bullpen. Well, while we’re running on the carpet, our spikes get caught, and we ended up flipping over and falling on each other. We could have broken our necks, our arms, something. Next thing we know, John’s in the game. I’m in the game. And we lose the game.
“So Bo pretty much screwed up everything that day for us.”
Commercial a smash
The only sound louder than Jackson’s homer might have been the celebrating going on at Nike headquarters.
Its “Bo knows” commercial was about to air at the end of the inning for the first time. It featured Jackson playing a variety of sports and athletes such as Kirk Gibson, Jim Everett, Michael Jordan, John McEnroe and Mary Decker proclaiming “Bo knows …” and Wayne Gretzky saying “No” when Jackson is shown skating. It concluded with Jackson playing the guitar and musician Bo Diddley proclaiming, “Bo, you don’t know diddly.”
VIDEO: ‘Bo Knows’ commercial
Sales of Nike’s new cross-trainer shoe were about to take off.
“We look at Bo affectionately as our godfather,” Nike vice president Kris Aman says. “That ‘Bo knows’ campaign was one of the most historic that Nike has done. Bo was amazing; the things he did, and the circumstances he did them under, was unprecedented. Every time he showed up, you had the feeling something magical would happen.”
Says McGwire, the hitting coach for the Cardinals and the starting AL first baseman in 1989, “As time goes by people may not remember what he did on the field, but they’ll never forget those Nike commercials.”
While McGwire went on to break Roger Maris‘ single-season home run record in 1998, Jackson was long retired.
Although Jackson says he had offers from three teams to sign when baseball returned in 1995 from its work stoppage, he was too comfortable at home. He answered to no one, he says, but his wife and daughter. He had enough of sports, even cutting ties with Nike and all of his other sponsors.
Sports was changing, and Bo wasn’t going to change with it. Steroid use in baseball was on the rise, with players getting stronger and running faster. Jackson says he didn’t need it.
“When I was born, God gave me a natural greenie, a built-in steroid,” Jackson says. “I was always faster than people, stronger than people. So when I found out what guys were doing, I figured guys were cheating just to catch up to where I was.
“But I didn’t know. To be honest with you, I was so focused on what I was doing, people could have been doing steroids right under my nose and I wouldn’t have known.
“But you know what I always wondered, why the guys were drinking all of this milk after games. I’m going to have a beer or drink some water, and I’m thinking, ‘Why are all guys drinking all this milk?’ I found out later it was because they were coming down from greenies. I didn’t even know what a greenie was. I swear to God I didn’t know.”
No arrests. No stupid stunts. No embarrassing incidents.
He’s in bed these days at 9. He won’t permit pictures to be taken outside public appearances and never with a woman who’s not his wife, Linda, a clinical psychologist. His oldest son, Garrett, just completed his master’s degree at St. Mary’s in Minnesota, and he has a son, Nicholas, and daughter, Morgan, attending Auburn.
Jackson’s placid existence seems to make it harder for him to comprehend the foibles of modern athletes.
“These guys have people working for them that’s not going to slap their hand when they do something wrong,” Jackson says, “or pull them aside and say, ‘You can’t do that. You’re going to look like (a jerk).’ Then you wouldn’t have all of this stupid stuff going on that you see.
“And you see what happened to him? He gets into this brawl at a strip club when somebody says something bad about Texas. I’m like, ‘Dude, do you think I’m going to whip your butt because you said something? You can say whatever you want about Auburn. I’m not that shallow. … I’ll probably agree with you. But nothing will make me mad enough to snap you and you hire a lawyer and try to get $100,000 from me.”
Jackson shakes his head. He says he didn’t come along too early, just at the right time.
“My No. 1 goal is to keep my train on the track,” Jackson says, “and not worry about anybody else’s. That’s the way I’ve always lived my life. (But) if you’re stupid enough to go out and do some stupid (stuff), then be a man and suffer the consequences. I have no sympathy for you.”
Bo Jackson was born on November 30th, 1962 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Jackson
11 + 30 +2+0+0+9 = 52 = his personal year (from November 30th, 2009 to November 29th, 2010) = Keen. Perceptive. Astute. Shrewd. Incisive. Wit. Verbose. Analyze. Critique. Criticism. Sarcasm. Sharp tongue. Wisecrack. Comebacks. Scathing. Caustic.
52 year + 6 (June) = 58 = his personal month (from June 30th, 2010 to July 29th, 2010) = Retired. Retirement.
The day of birth rules ages 27 to 54.
November 30th, 1962
So from ages twenty-seven to fifty-four he has the number 30 going on.
30 = Golf. Living a life of luxury.