The day Royals outfielder Bo Jackson scaled the wall after making a catch
Jackson did his best Spider-Man impression in a 1990 game against the Orioles
Believe it or not, when Bo Jackson scaled the center-field wall after catching a fly ball against the Baltimore Orioles on July 11, 1990, it wasn’t the biggest story of the game or even the biggest story for the Kansas City Royals outfielder that day.
As time has worn on and folks have looked back at the sequence, it has become the standout play of the game, which the Royals lost, 7-5.
Jackson’s Spider-Man-like maneuver is viewed as one of the plays that defined the athleticism he showed throughout his baseball and football careers. It is included in Major League Baseball’s highlight reel of Jackson’s top plays.
But on that day, the talk of the game was the Orioles’ bullpen, and the talk around Jackson was a New York Times article about his marketability, his “Bo Knows” series and the estimated $2 million he’d made in endorsements.
Jackson scaling the wall wasn’t noted in The Baltimore Sun or Washington Post recap articles, and pinning down which of the many fly balls it was that day required looking at the footage of the play and the scoreboard in the background of the video.
In the bottom of the third inning, Royals pitcher Pete Filson sent a 1-2 pitch to the Orioles’ Joe Orsulak, who connected with the top of his bat. That sent the ball toward left-center field, and as the play developed, Jackson hauled tail from out of the frame, snagged the ball out of the air and ran full speed toward the wall.
Jackson wasn’t showboating when he climbed almost to the top of the center-field wall in Memorial Stadium.
According to a 2014 interview with AL.com’s Brandon Marcello, Jackson was trying to spare himself further injury.
The Auburn legend was actually protecting a separated shoulder when he tracked down the fly ball in the middle innings of a summer showdown with the Baltimore Orioles, he said Friday during a question-and-answer session with journalism students on the Auburn campus.
Jackson caught the baseball with his out-stretched glove and regained his footing before running – in stride – along the outfield wall.
“At the angle that I was running, if I had crashed into the wall, I probably would have re-injured my shoulder,” Jackson told Marcello. “So instead of crashing into it, I just decided to do what I used to do when I was a kid and just run up the wall and come back down. That seems easier to me and logical.”
The makeup game kicked off the second half of the baseball season. Much had been made of Baltimore’s shaky pitching staff going into the game, and it appeared warranted after Orioles starter Bob Milacki gave up five runs in the third inning after the Orioles had built a 2-0 lead.
After that, Ben McDonald, Curt Schilling, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined to pitch six shutout innings, which gave the Orioles’ hitters an opportunity to take back the game. While Jackson’s catch in the bottom of the third was not detailed, his error in the bottom of the fourth was noted in The Sun.
Leadoff hitter Cal Ripken drew a walk, and then Craig Worthington singled. Bob Melvin followed Worthington’s single with a line drive to left-center field, which Jackson misplayed. Ripken and Worthington scored, and Melvin advanced to second base. Two batters later, Melvin scored to tie the game at 5-5.
Run-scoring singles by Orsulak and Randy Milligan off Steve Farr in the seventh brought the crowd of 20,187 to its feet as the Orioles completed their comeback. It was Schilling’s first victory in the majors, and Olson earned his 18th save of the season by striking out the side, leaving the bases loaded, in the ninth.