THE BEST FOOTBALL PLAYER IN BASEBALL
The attention given Bo Jackson's rapid ascension into the major leagues may have grated on many Royals players, not to mention interim manager Mike Ferraro. (When Ferraro introduced himself, Bo walked away.) And no one will ever accuse Jackson of false modesty: After he signed in July, he handed out autographed pictures of himself with the Heisman Trophy to the Royals, and after 11 major league at bats, he announced, "I'm not having any trouble with the fastball or the curve."
But even in a year that saw the arrival of Jose Canseco, Wally Joyner, Cory Snyder, Danny Tartabull and Ruben Sierra, Jackson's presence has caused quite a stir. "He might be the best player who ever lived," said teammate Buddy Biancalana admiringly. Jackson is now the fastest player in the game, having been clocked from the right side of the plate to first base in 3.62 seconds, just off Mickey Mantle's legendary 3.5. Jackson has a Jesse Barfield-quality arm and tremendous power, and one week into his career, he had a four-hit game. On Sunday he hit a 475-foot homer (that's 158 yards in football) off Seattle's Mike Moore. It was said to be the longest ball ever hit in Royals Stadium, surpassing a shot by Dick Allen in 1974.
The Royals' problem will be to keep Jackson interested in baseball once he becomes a football free agent following the next NFL draft. That might be difficult if the Royals keep him in the minors next year. Jackson can legally break his three-year contract with the Royals before Oct. 1. If he chooses to continue playing baseball—there have been no indications that he is thinking of doing otherwise—he must remain in the Royals organization until July 15, 1987, when he would have his second and final buy-out option. Kirk Gibson was moved to the majors after 500 minor league at bats, and Bo will have had close to that total by July 1987. Then again, there are people in the Kansas City organization who speculate that, with intense training in the Instructional League, Jackson might be able to hold his own in the majors at the beginning of next season.
September 21, 1986
Meanwhile, Jackson is tired of answering football questions. "There's nothing about football that I really miss," he says. "I don't know why it's so hard for people to understand that. For the last six years, it was my life. I enjoyed every minute of it. I look back and reminisce over it, but I don't miss it."
THE ROYAL LINE OF SUCCESSION
Dick Howser continues to make what he calls "good, positive progress," and he has told friends he expects to manage next year. Whether or not Royals G.M. John Schuerholz will allow him to take that chance remains to be seen, but Schuerholz is already grooming John Wathan for the job someday by making him the 1987 Omaha manager....
One year after winning the World Series, Royals players are anticipating wholesale changes. Five or six veterans will be released and a major trade will be made to get someone to bat behind George Brett. It has long been rumored that the pitcher they'll deal is Mark Gubicza, but he has quietly matured into their best starter. After being 0-4 with an ERA of 7.27 as of May 9, Gubicza is up to 10-6....
It isn't unusual to get to the park early and find umpire John Shulock studying videotapes of his performances behind the plate. "We need to check potential bad habits, just like players," says Shulock....
The Players Association scored a significant victory when arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the union's grievance and ruled that former arbitrator Thomas Roberts should hear and rule on the union's charges of conspiracy in free-agent negotiations among the 26 major league clubs. Roberts had been fired by the owners....
For those who thought that Pete Rose wouldn't be able to phase himself out of regular action: He hasn't batted since Aug. 17 or started since Aug. 16. He can watch the legend of Eric Davis grow. Last week Giants manager Roger Craig compared Davis with Henry Aaron....
The Rangers, who have used an estimated 200 dozen more baseballs for batting practice this year than last, hit 7 home runs against the Twins on Sept. 13, giving them a club record 161 for the season. Five of the homers came off Bert Blyleven, who has now given up 44 this year, breaking the AL gopher-ball mark of 43 set by Washington's Pedro Ramos in 1957. Still ahead for Blyleven is the major league record of 46 held by Robin Roberts.
THE GHOST BUSTERS
Boston's storming finish has taken the ghosts of 1978 off the backs of veterans Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. Rice, who has a career average of .329 in September and 257 RBIs in 1,247 September at bats, moved himself into the MVP picture and added to the legend of his strength. On Sept. 8, he hit a home run in Baltimore on a broken bat. With Eddie Murray unlikely to reach the plateau, Evans and Mike Schmidt will be the only players with 20 homers in each of the last six years....
Rice had his cap stolen in Yankee Stadium last Saturday as he and shortstop Spike Owen lay sprawled on the ground following a collision. When Rice confronted the thief, the fan used a racial invective, and Rice took off after him into the stands. He was followed by several valuable teammates, including Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Oil Can Boyd and manager John McNamara. The incident said something about Boston's team spirit, but it said more about the frightening atmosphere in Yankee Stadium. A knife was thrown at Wally Joyner last month, and now this. The Yankees have beefed up security, but the real answer is a stronger restriction on beer sales. If the ugliness continues, George Steinbrenner will have the excuse he needs to move the team to New Jersey....
In August, Fernando Valenzuela picked up a bunt and threw out a runner with a 60-foot backhand toss. Last week he fielded another bunt and hiked it through his legs to first base. "He reminds you of Magic Johnson," says Steve Sax. "Fernando just plays around, the way Magic does. When he's on, it's like he plays with people."
...Ranger pitching coach Tom House is comparing Bobby Witt with both Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan now that Witt has begun to throw strikes more consistently—Texas has won his last eight starts. "He will be one of the most dominant pitchers of his time," says House....
A prospective owner of the California League's Ventura franchise is a former UCLA quarterback named Mark Harmon....
It is ironic that in the week that Earl Weaver announced he wasn't returning, former Baltimore pitching coach Ray Miller—one of the finalists for Weaver's job when Earl originally retired—was fired in Minnesota. Billy Martin is lobbying hard to become both manager and G.M., but Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad must know Martin's administrative history in Oakland. Martin hired so many friends that at one point he had five scouts within a 15-mile radius.
BETWEEN THE LINES
THE '87 PIRATE SLOGAN: WE'RE NOT PITIFUL, JUST LOUSY
Under the shrewd public relations directorship of Joe Gallagher, baseball's worst-drawing team last week:
•Informed players that it will cost them $25 apiece for individual copies of the 1986 team photo, which does not include Hipolito Pena.
•Misled the Pittsburgh Press into thinking that first baseman Sid Bream authored a story it ran on the effect of large crowds on player performance. Bream said that only 10% of the actual story was in his words; it turned out that the article was written by Gallagher and edited by a public relations firm.
•Demanded equal time on ESPN after sportscaster Tom Mees referred to the Pirates as "pitiful." In a subsequent debate with Mees, Gallagher said, "You can call us lousy, but not pitiful."
THE LEE ELIA TIRADE OF THE WEEK
Despite a club ban on negative comments about Candlestick Park, Chili Davis aired some thoughts on Sept. 11.
Davis called the crowd of 4,624 "pathetic." Said Davis, "We have about 6,000 real fans. The rest are——who come out to see other teams beat us."
As for good of Candlestick, Davis said, "They should pack up this team and get the hell out of here.... If I were Bob Lurie, I'd pack it up and take a hike. Adios. See you later."
RAGS TO RICHES
Not even the Yankee owner is suggesting that Dave Righetti be returned to the starting rotation. Righetti has succeeded in 23 consecutive save opportunities since July 3 and has broken the Yankee single-season save record of 35, previously held by Sparky Lyle. The Yankees have won only one game that Righetti hasn't saved since Aug. 12.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"This isn't a salary drive, it's a survival drive."—Royals utilityman Jamie Quirk after he had back-to-back three-hit games.
•"We have two things in mind: To finish in second place and to hit more than 49 home runs. Those are the things we've taken as Task No. 1 and Task No. 2, in that order. We'd hate to be the team remembered for hitting the least home runs since 1812 or whatever."—Cardinals catcher Clint Hurdle.
Rick Burleson, hitting .291 in his Angel comeback after four years of shoulder woes, was irate when Gene Mauch played rookie Gus Polidor at second instead of him. Twice this season Burleson had flown his entire family back to Boston to see him play in his old park, and both times Mauch didn't start him in the field. "Now he [Mauch] starts a rookie who won't even be here for the playoffs," said Burleson. "He buried me. I don't like the man, and I don't care who knows it."
Mauch's reply: "If a fine young man like Rick Burleson doesn't like you, you must have a personality problem. And in my case, it's too late to change."
•Tim Raines has been thrown out stealing three times all season, once on an overslide, once on a pitchout and once on a disputed call. For the record, the catchers who nailed him were Gary Carter, Bruce Benedict and Jody Davis.
•Bob Boone, who passed Gabby Hartnett to move into third place in games caught (1,792), should overtake Rick Ferrell (1,805) by season's end and could catch Al Lopez (1,918) as the all-time leader by next September.
•Next year Detroit's Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker will become the first double play combination to play together for 10 consecutive seasons.
•Mike Schmidt may again lead the majors in home runs—he has 35. Besides, he hasn't made an error since Aug. 2, hasn't made an error at third base on the road since April 27 and has had only eight errors all season—two of them at first base.
•The Giants' Bob Brenly, on the other hand, made four errors at third in the fourth inning on Sunday, tying the record set by Lewis Whistler in 1891 and tied by James Burke in 1901. Brenly went on to hit two homers and drive in four runs in the Giants' 7-6 victory over Atlanta.