Thursday, April 5, 2012

NFL-MLB Crossover Heroes: Bo Jackson

Today, I bring you the conclusion of our look at athletes who crossed sporting lines to have success in both football and baseball.  Plus, at the end of the post I’ll tell you the only football stadium that also functions as the home field for a Major League Baseball team.  Can you guess which one it is—without peeking?


Bo Jackson:   Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson attended Auburn University, instead of playing for the New York Yankees right out of high school; the Yankees drafted him in the second round of the 1981 MLB draft.  At Auburn, he excelled in both baseball and football, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1985. 

When he first came out of college, however, it looked like Jackson was going to have to choose one sport over the other.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him with the first overall pick of the 1986 draft and told him that he had to give up baseball (an understandable position to take, given the investment they were prepared to make in him).  Taking exception to the ultimatum, Bo decided to sign with the MLB Kansas City Royals, and made his way out of the minors to the major league squad in 1987.

Football Bo:  Since he hadn’t signed a football contract by the 1987 NFL draft, Tampa Bay forfeited its rights to Bo Jackson and his name was put back into the hopper for the 1987 draft.  The owner of the (then) Los Angeles Raiders, football pioneer and maverick personality Al Davis, recognized Jackson’s potential and selected him in the 7th round.  He gave him a salary that a full-time player would have, but still allowed him to play out the remainder of the season with the Royals.  He enjoyed a successful four seasons in the NFL, amassing 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns as a backup running back to Raiders great Marcus Allen.  One of his most memorable games was a 221-yard, three-touchdown performance on Monday Night Football in 1987.  Here is a look back at this game, including one of his scores that produced a famous highlight (around 1:40):*

Baseball Bo:  Meanwhile, Bo continued to play as an outfielder and designated hitter for the Royals through 1990.  The high point of his baseball career was the 1989 season, when he was named an American League starter for the All Star Game, where he was named the game MVP.  Unfortunately, a severe hip injury Jackson sustained during the 1990 NFL playoffs led to a total hip replacement; he was released by the Royals but was able to return to baseball toward the end of the season as a member of the Chicago White Sox.  He missed the entire 1992 season, but in his first at-bat of the 1993 season, he hit a home run on his first swing.  However, he never got back to pre-injury form and played his final season in 1994 for the California Angels.  Over his eight-season career, Jackson had a .250 batting average and accumulated 141 home runs and 415 RBIs; in his breakout 1989 season, he was fourth in the league in total home runs (32) and RBIs (105).

Bo was famous for breaking a bat over his knee after a poor at-bat

Endorser Bo:  Off the field, Bo created his own marketing legacy when he signed an endorsement deal with Nike that resulted in the popular “Bo Knows” campaign.  These ads featured Jackson channeling his inner George Plimpton, taking on a variety of sports.  The highlight of the campaign, though, was a two-spot series with blues legend Bo Diddley.  In the first spot, Bo Diddley says to Jackson, “You don’t know diddley!”  In a later ad, Jackson impresses Diddley with his much-improved guitar playing and Diddley says, “Bo…you do know Diddley, don’t you?”

Now for the NFL stadium that is the only one that is also the home field of a Major League Baseball team… 

Until the early 1990’s several stadiums served a dual purpose of fielding football and baseball.  Two developments in sport architecture in the 1990s and early 2000s changed this:  (1) the rise in popularity of retro-style baseball parks (the first being Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards); and (2) the widespread use of FieldTurf and other artificial turfs, which can’t be rolled up and moved for another sport like the older AstroTurf. 

So, which stadium still hosts professional football and baseball teams? Coliseum, which is home to the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland Athletics.  The Coliseum has been known by many names:  Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Network Associates Coliseum, McAfee Coliseum and Coliseum.  Through the years though, it has been commonly known as The Oakland Coliseum, or simply The Coliseum.

*I’m a bit disappointed by Al Michaels in the beginning of his interview of Bo Jackson.  Bo mentioned that what he remembers most about that game is that it was his birthday and the day before his wife had told him she was pregnant with their second child.  It’s a nice personal revelation and Michaels just ignores it and moves on.

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