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A 40-40 Man? He Refuses to Discuss It

You read it here first. Some people believe the only baseball player who could do this season what Jose Canseco did last season--slug 40 homers and steal 40 bases--is Jose Canseco. No way, Jose. We think somebody else not only can do it, but will. And his manager thinks he might, too.

Bo Jackson.

“If he plays a full season, injury-free, I’m here to tell you Bo can do it,” Manager John Wathan of the Kansas City Royals said. “Canseco’s 40-40 is certainly within his reach.”

We strongly agree. We have witnessed Jackson’s strength and speed. We saw him check-swing a ball to the wall against the Dodgers last week. We have never seen him knock the cover off a baseball, exactly, but he has definitely smudged Bobby Brown’s signature once or twice. When he hits ‘em, they stay hit.

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Bo Jackson has it all, beef and cake.

Trust us, if anybody else is going to do the 40-40 bit this year, this is the guy.

Jackson, just 26 and still learning on one of his two jobs, won’t even consider the idea.

“I don’t announce goals for myself,” he said, tight-lipped as ever.

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(When a sportswriter from California dropped by his locker and casually opened the conversation by asking if his body has made its annual adjustment from football to baseball, Jackson looked up and replied: “I don’t talk about football.”)

In his second full season in pro sports, the Royal-Raider was as awesome as ever. For Kansas City, he became the first 25-25 man in franchise history, hitting 25 homers and stealing 27 bases.

Impressive? My, yes.

Now, you want to hear something impressive with a capital I?

Bo Jackson sat out a month.

He tore his left hamstring--and a nice little hamstring it was, too--running out a grounder at Cleveland on May 31. The next time he played, it was July.

If Vincent E. Jackson ever plays 162 games in left field, no telling what numbers he might put up. This is no Ted Williams or Hank Aaron we are talking about, with great power and marginal speed. This is a Willie Mays or a Mickey Mantle. Bo Jackson can fly like Eastern Airlines on a good day.

Forty homers? Forty steals? No sweat. As Mantle recently said, “If I’d known everybody would have made such a fuss about it, I’d have done it a couple of times myself.”

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All Jackson has to do is stay unhurt and get wood on the ball. The second part could be his downfall. There’s this strikeout habit he has to kick, if he’s ever going to crank his batting average above the .250 mark--which, by the way, he never has.

Jackson fanned 146 times last season in 124 games. During one stretch he struck out in nine straight at-bats. The fans of Kansas City would love to see Bo make contact with that big swing more often, although on hot summer nights, they do enjoy the breeze.

Asked if this were something he was hoping to correct, Jackson said: “I’m not doing anything different this year than I did last year. You can’t work on one thing to be a better baseball player. You’ve got to work on everything.”

How about winter ball instead of football? Would that make him a better baseball player?

“I don’t want any part of winter ball,” Jackson said. “It’s just another form of spring training. I wouldn’t consider it. I can get ready here same as I’d get ready there.”

Well, then, how about resting up during the winter, not playing football?

“I don’t like to have idle time on my hands,” Bo said. “You stay in one place too long, it starts to grow on you.”

So, then, Bo, you’re happy with the way things are going with your career(s)?

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Bo looked a guy right in the eye.

“I am happy as a lark,” he said.

Wathan, who has been managing in major league baseball even less time than Bo Jackson has been playing it, was asked if he would like to see Jackson give up football and devote himself solely to baseball.

“Oh, sure. I would be delighted,” Wathan said. “But we made a deal with Bo before I even came on the job, and we’re going to live by our agreement.

“I’ll say this, though: If he ever did decide to quit football, he’d probably reach his baseball potential a lot sooner. Look at what he did last year, even in a big ballpark like Kansas City’s. Look at that half-swing against the Dodgers that went to the warning track. That’s a pop-up for most people.

“When Bo learns a little more patience at the plate, that’ll be it. He’ll be a monster. Canseco’s numbers wouldn’t be beyond him at all. He’s capable of just about anything.”

Including playing a third sport, if he had a mind to.

Serious ol’ Bo wouldn’t even joke about that, though. Asked with a smile if he’d given any thought to basketball or Olympic bobsledding lately, Jackson frowned and said, “Nope.” He seemed to be in no joking mood.

Well, then, a guy asked, thinking of a Mike Tyson fight that would be held later that night, how about boxing? Ever do any boxing?

“Only with my sister,” Bo said.

So, baseball and football it is, at least for a while longer. Good news for the Raiders, assuming football is the sport Jackson would give up.

He was asked when he will choose.

“Choose what?” he asked back.

Baseball or football?

“I’ll give one up when that time comes, and not one minute sooner,” Jackson said, impatiently. “Anything else? Let’s wrap this up.”

Nope, nothing else. Run out and get your 40-40 now, or 60-60, or whatever. We’ll make a fuss about it.


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