Bo Jackson’s first home run
It was 30 years ago to the day that one of the best athletes ever made his mark on baseball
Coming out of high school, mega-athlete Bo Jackson was such a highly regarded baseball player that the New York Yankees snagged him in the second round of the 1982 Major League Baseball draft. Jackson had other plans instead, spurning professional baseball for the confines of Auburn University and the ability to play multiple sports.
”I think my mother was proudest when I signed for a full scholarship to Auburn,” Jackson told The New York Times in 1984. ”I was the first in my family to go to a major college. Momma advised me to turn down the Yankees. ‘You can have the money for a short time,’ she said, ‘education is for your whole life.’ ”
Still, Jackson’s mother was wary of football and its dangers early: ”My mother was against it. She was afraid I’d get hurt,” Jackson said. “And she’d sometimes lock me out of the house when I came home from practice.”
Although having to pick between baseball and football would only be a temporary dilemma for Jackson — he’d go on to play professionally in both sports — he was faced with the decision again after graduating from Auburn in 1986. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him No. 1 overall in that year’s draft, but the defending champion Kansas City Royals had also taken him in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB draft.
The Buccaneers gave Jackson an ultimatum, and so he chose the Royals and reported to Double-A. After 53 games with the Memphis Chicks (a team that no longer exists), Jackson was called up to the big leagues in time to play on Sept. 14, 1986.
The Royals won an uninteresting blowout of a game that day — 10-3 — but it was Jackson and his first career home run that had everyone talking afterward.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Jackson demolished a pitch off of Seattle Mariners starter Mike Moore. It landed, sure, but not until 475 feet later. At the time, it was the longest home run ever hit at Royals Stadium.
“I knew it would come,” Jackson said after the game. “It was a flat slider and I was using the bat I’d used in batting practice. It was one of Willie Wilson’s bats that I’d taken from his rack.”
“That ball was hit well over 500 feet,” said then-Royals manager Mike Ferraro. “I was in awe. It was simply amazing.”
“I haven’t seen many like that, no sir, but I believe he hit it every foot. I think they’re being conservative in the distance,” said then-Mariners manager Dick Williams.
Jackson would go on to play in nearly 700 MLB games across nine seasons. He smacked 141 home runs and was the 1989 All-Star Game MVP. For the first half of his career, Jackson also played — as crazy it sounds now — on NFL Sundays as well, racking up nearly 40 games to his name, all with the Los Angeles Raiders. He was a beast.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed Bo Jackson as a member of the Oakland Raiders, it has been corrected to reflect Jackson played for the Los Angeles Raiders.