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ANOTHER BO? : New Raider Edmonds Doesn’t Fit in That Class, but He Has Played Pro Baseball

Times Staff Writer

The National Pastime giveth, the National Pastime taketh away.

You’ve heard of Bo Jackson, you’ve heard of Deion Sanders, now meet . . .

Bobby Joe Edmonds?

For every football/baseball millionaire, there have to be a million aspirants and Edmonds is the latest. If Bo knows baseball, but not the Raiders for the next five weeks or so, they now have another cross-trainer who’s available immediately.

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Edmonds was recently an all-pro punt returner and even more recently a center fielder in the Phillies’ farm system. Thursday the Raiders signed him to try to fill part of the void left by the loss of Tim Brown.

Edmonds, of course, cannot yet match the year-round success of Bo and Deion. Bo, who holds the Raider single-game rushing record, has 31 homers and 93 runs batted in for the Royals. Deion hit a major league homer and returned a National Football League punt for a touchdown within seven days.

Bobby Joe hit .203 last summer for the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League and then got cut by the Detroit Lions.

Edmonds has been around lately, but let him tell it.

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“A big circle,” he said. “I started in Seattle, got on the Plan B free agency situation, went and played baseball in Reading, Pa., for the Phillies, ended up with the Detroit Lions.”

Let’s take them one at a time:

Seattle--As a Seahawk rookie in 1986, and again in ’87, Edmonds led the American Conference in punt returns. He made the Pro Bowl in 1986, when he led the entire league.

Edmonds, who had been twice drafted by baseball teams, had asked to try a Bo-like double but the Seahawks said no.

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In his first two seasons, Edmonds averaged better than 12 yards a punt return. Last year, he fell off to 9.7, but he thinks the Seahawks left him unprotected because they felt threatened by his baseball interest.

“I like to still think I was knocking them dead,” he says. “I didn’t think I was slacking off. I think in the three years I’ve played, I’ve been one of the best in returning kicks.”

And so he went to . . .

Reading--He was only there about 2 1/2 weeks. He only had a handful of at-bats so his final average doesn’t mean much. He says he was hitting .290 until he ran into a five-for-35 slump.

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“I had a pretty good year,” he says, “considering being out of the game for four years and stepping in at the double-A level. I have an invitation to go back to spring training.

“This year was really to see if I still could do it, if I had the tools.

“I did it because later on in life I didn’t want to have it in my mind that I could have been a baseball player. So I went after it. And everything was positive.”

Detroit--In mid-June, Edmonds reported to the Lions’ camp.

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Their new offensive coordinator, Mouse Davis, had just installed his run-and-shoot offense, so they needed receivers and made Edmonds an offer he couldn’t refuse.

However, someone ran into Edmonds’ ribs in camp and there went the gig.

Besides, he wasn’t their type.

“One of the reasons I signed there was to be able to prove my skills as a receiver,” Edmonds says. “But it didn’t work out for me. I didn’t fit into the prototype of the Mousketeer-type receiver--which is 5-6 and 160 pounds.

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“It’s good. They’re trying to rebuild and I think it’s going to take them awhile.”

Los Angeles--"I’m glad to be back on a contender and a team that is committed to winning and trying to get the job done,” Edmonds said Thursday after signing with the Raiders.

And if things work out, will Edmonds try to play both sports at once?

“I like to say to myself that Bo just beat me to the punch,” Edmonds says.

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What a short, strange trip it has been. There are hundreds of thousands of athletes who would give their all to make it a single big league sport, so if Edmonds struggles a little going for his double, it’s still a remarkable feat and a truly audacious goal.

The Raiders, home of the ambitious, are just glad to be of assistance once more.


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