You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we'll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1993, Bo knows
Bo Jackson was one of the most amazing players in major league history; at one point, he was perhaps the strongest and the fastest player in the game.
"I once saw him hit a ball 500 feet, run and catch it before it hit the ground, then threw it back to the plate in the air," scout Jimmy Stewart said.
He was exaggerating, but there is no exaggerating Bo.
"I never missed one of his at-bats," Kansas City Royals teammate George Brett said. "I never went to the bathroom when he came up because I might miss something I'd never seen."
Perhaps Bo's most amazing feat -- even greater than the night (I was there, I still can't believe what I saw) he ran up the fence at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore like a race car driving a ramped turn -- came on this date in 1993 with the Chicago White Sox. In his first at-bat since having hip replacement surgery, Bo muscled a home run over the right-field fence. He muscled his way through a career that made teammates shake their heads in astonishment.
"Bo was a big bow hunter," said catcher Mike Macfarlane, a former teammate. "He kept his bows in his locker. He would show us how to shoot, but for him, it was like plucking a harp. He just used two fingers to cock it. I stood on top of the bow and, using both hands, tried to cock it, and I couldn't do it. And neither could anyone else on our team. I'm sure our front office wasn't happy about this, we were all afraid of tearing a rotator cuff trying to cock a bow. Bo needed two fingers. Damnedest thing I've ever seen."
Bo broke bats over his knee. He once snapped a bat over his helmet.
"When he signed [in 1986], they sent him to [Triple-A] Memphis, where I was," Macfarlane said. "He hit a ball foul in the game, and broke his bat. It wasn't broken in half, but it was clearly cracked. Typical Bo, he said, 'Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, screw it.' He didn't get a new bat, and hit the next pitch over the center-field fence. It was right then that we said, 'OK, you are a freak.'"
Other baseball notes from April 9
In 2001, Willie Stargell died at age 61. I heard that news the minute the cab dropped me at PNC Park, the first time I'd ever been there. A Hall of Fame outfielder, the famed "Pops'' was co-MVP of the National League in 1979 and the emotional leader of the "We Are Family" Pirates, who won the World Series that year. Stargell's two-run homer won Game 7 against the Orioles. So sad that he died so young. He would have made a great, great old man.
In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela, filling in for injured pitcher Jerry Reuss, made his first major league start -- and thus began the start of the incredible phenomenon of Fernandomania. He threw a shutout that day. He won his first eight starts, completed them all, had five shutouts and gave up four runs in 72 innings. The Dodgers won the World Series that season. Valenzuela pitched a complete game in Game 3, a 5-4 victory over the Yankees. He allowed 16 baserunners.
In 1990, the Astros' Glenn Davis became the only player to be hit by a pitch three times on Opening Day. "That was a very painful way to start a season," Davis said.
In 2005, outfielder Juan Pierre's streak of consecutive innings played ended at 1,700. Pierre would finish his career with more hits (2,217) of any player never to make an All-Star team.
In 1945, Peter Gammons was born. I believe he is the greatest baseball writer ever. He knew everyone. He was so generous with his time and information. When I was a beat writer covering the Rangers in the early 1980s, I knew my team was making a trade, I just couldn't figure out for whom. So I called Peter. "Oh,'' he said, "you guys are getting Cliff Johnson.'' Two hours later, the Rangers acquired Cliff Johnson.