Watching him play, it was evident that Bo Jackson was one of the strongest athletes ever at that time. He would snap his bat over his knee or helmet after a strikeout. For a guy who was built like an 18 wheel truck, he was as fast as a race horse. He seemed to be a natural version of a science experiment.
The Kansas City Royals, whose MLB franchise Jackson was an up and coming star, decided to release Bo instead of paying him over $2 million for the 1991 season in arbitration. This was a difficult decision for the Royals, whom Bo had just finished his 4th consecutive season with 20+ HR. An All Star in 1989, Jackson finished that season by hitting .256, 32, 105 while finishing 10th in the AL MVP voting. In spite of batting some injuries during the 1990 season, Bo managed to hit a career high of .272 and hitting 28 HR in 111 games. As a free agent, Bo signed with the Chicago White Sox, but was expected to miss the entire 1991 baseball season. But Jackson played some rehab games in A and for AA Birmingham, the team Michael Jordan would later for, he managed to get into 23 games for Chicago, hitting .221 in 71 at bats with 3 HR.
Bo decided to have the hip replacement after the 1991 season. It was thought that his career would be over. In fact, the only possibility was that Jackson would return to professional baseball to play in the minor leagues. He would return in 1993, after missing the entire 1992 season, and hit a HR in his first at bat for the White Sox. In 85 games, he hit .232, 16, 45 and was on the White Sox postseason roster. In the ALCS loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Bo was 0-10. At age 31 in 1994, he played for the California Angels and hit a career high .279 with 13 HR in 75 games playing more OF than he DHed. He retired after the season, which ended after the MLBPA strike.
I remember watching the Nike ads of the time, which featured Jackson. "Bo knows" was one of my favorite commercials. He was one of the greatest athletes professional sports had ever seen. Not only was he an All Star baseball player, he was one of the top running backs in the NFL. Later on, guys like Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan would go through similar paths, but both had to eventually choose one or the other. Sanders chose football, where he became a Hall of Fame defensive back and Jordan chose baseball, where he would be an OF for 15 MLB seasons, making the playoffs five times. Bo Jackson had the chance to be great at both sports. It is unfortunate that we never got a chance to see if he could do it. Maybe it will never be done. But if anybody could have done it, Bo Jackson was the freakish animal that would have. Who knows what would have happened if he had not suffered the hip injury (or popped his dislocated hip back into place)? It just seems unbelievable that his football injury happened 23 years ago!