A New Jackson Arrives : Baseball: Bo plays down his role with Angels. ‘I’m a fourth outfielder,’ he tells packed news conference.


It was designed to be a news conference, but the moment the man walked through the door Monday afternoon, the Angels knew their image suddenly had changed.

It has been years since they had this feeling, but for the first time since the Angels last had a Jackson on the field, they now have an identity.

Reggie was the one responsible for delivering glamour and sex appeal to the Angels.

Now, Bo is bringing it back.

“I really never understood that magnetism he had,” Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi said, “until today. It was unbelievable.”


Vincent Edward Jackson, whom the world simply calls, “Bo,” charmed, teased and mesmerized reporters and photographers for nearly an hour at Anaheim Stadium. It was the Angels’ largest press conference since Reggie Jackson signed as a free agent in 1982.

There were about 100 media representatives, including 12 TV crews. The entire front office of the Angels was there, no one wanted to miss the moment.

Jackson warned the assemblage that he’s not a savior for the franchise. He even called himself a fourth outfielder, and said he wasn’t trying to cost anyone a job.

Still, it didn’t matter. This is a guy who transcended two sports before Deion Sanders entertained the notion. This is a guy who is playing with an artificial hip, knowing it could go out at any time. This is charisma.

The Angels, who readily admit that Jackson will be an instant gate attraction--but scoff at talk that it’s the sole reason they signed him--say this will be a cozy arrangement. Jackson will be paid $1 million if he makes the opening-day roster, but if he’s cut in spring training, they’re liable for only $300,000. Jackson can earn $2.2 million if he plays in 130 games, receiving a $200,000 bonus for every 10 games he plays beginning with the 80th and ending with the 130th.

“I’m not here to take somebody’s job,” Jackson said. “I’m a fourth outfielder. My role is to play where I’m needed. I’m just here to be part of the team.”


While Jackson was talking as smoothly as a politician, he wasn’t fooling anyone. He’s not coming to California just to be close to Hollywood. He wants to play, whether it will be as the Angels’ starting left fielder or their designated hitter.

“I know what he said,” Bavasi said, “but I can’t believe he goes back to Phoenix and works out just to be a fourth outfielder. No way.”

The Angels already have a full-time DH in Chili Davis, who hit 27 homers and drove in 112 runs last season. They also have viable left fielders in Eduardo Perez and free agent Dwight Smith, who reached agreement with the Angels Monday. Of course, any conflict could be resolved by trading Davis, who’s guaranteed $2.4 million this season and could earn $3.05 million.

“There are no sacred cows here,” Bavasi said. “This gives us flexibility that we didn’t have before.

“I’m not saying we’re signing the same Bo Jackson. I mean, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if he had stayed away from football. This guy would have been absolutely phenomenal.

“But then again, I wouldn’t bet against him. If anybody wants to, I’ll cover the action.”

Jackson has spent his entire professional career making fools of those who dared to doubt him.


They said he never would play major league baseball after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1985. But he was playing for the Kansas City Royals eight months later.

They said it was impossible to play two professional sports. But he was playing for the Raiders and Royals in 1987, earning All-Star and All-Pro honors in each sport.

They said he was finished as an athlete when he underwent hip replacement surgery in 1992. But he hit a home run in his first at-bat of the 1993 season for the Chicago White Sox, hitting .232 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 85 games..

“I’ve thrived on that my entire life,” Jackson said. “People told me I’d never amount to anything growing up. All I can say is, ‘Look at me now, baby, look at me now.’ ”

The latest challenge for Jackson is proving that the White Sox and the rest of the baseball world made a huge mistake when they didn’t pursue him this winter. He became a free agent when the White Sox elected not to exercise his option, and with two weeks remaining before spring training, Jackson was without a job.

There still are those skeptical of Jackson’s ability. The artificial hip greatly inhibits his flexibility, and he has difficulty handling an array of pitches. Yet, he still has average speed, a good arm and power that refuses to go away.


“If he wasn’t so naturally strong,” one rival American League executive said, “he wouldn’t have a chance. There’s only one zone where he can really handle the ball. But if you ask me, it’s a good signing.

“You can’t call this a gimmick thing because the Angels can really use this guy. He’s still capable of hitting 20 homers and driving in 80 runs if he plays all season. When you think about it, the Angels don’t have anything to lose.”

Said Angel President Richard Brown: “It’s obvious that Bo is going to help sell some tickets because of his aura, but we would never bring in an individual just to sell tickets.”

With Bo, it just goes with the territory.