Bo & Deion – where baseball met football

Football broke out at a baseball game on July 17, 1990, when the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees did battle at Yankee Stadium. That night, two-sports stars Bo JacksonBo Jackson and Deion SandersDeion Sanders, playing center field for their respective ballclubs, put on a display of power and speed that wowed the 26,777 in attendance.

In the first inning, Jackson hit a two-run homer to dead center, just out of reach of a leaping Sanders. In his second at-bat, Bo said go as he crushed a long home run which landed three-quarters of the way up in the right center field bleachers, more than 450 feet from the plate.

Before Jackson came to the plate for the third time in the fifth inning, New York manager Stump Merrill visited the mound and asked Yankee starter Andy Hawkins how he intended to pitch Jackson. “Outside,” Hawkins replied. “It better be way outside,” said Merrill. Hawkins pitched outside and Jackson went with the pitch, hammering a more pedestrian two-run blast over the right field fence. In his first three at-bats, Bo had three HRs and seven RBIs. See video.

With the Yankees trailing 8-4 in the bottom of the sixth and a man on first, Sanders hit a line drive in the right center field gap which eluded a diving Jackson and rolled all the way to the wall. Sanders took a wide turn around third, crashed into catcher Mike Macfarlane, and then scrambled to touch home plate before Macfarlane could retrieve the ball for an inside-the-park home run. See video.

Jackson injured his left shoulder on the play and had to leave the game, killing any chance of a record-tying four home runs in a single game. Deion’s HR was hit against Mel Stottlemyre, Jr., son of the former standout Yankee right-hander. Oh, by the way, the Royals won the game, 10-7. See box score.

Ironically Jackson was drafted in the second round of the 1982 draft by the Yankees. But the shortstop from Bessemer, Alabama, decided to play football at Auburn University, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1995 and was selected the first pick overall in the 1986 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the running back never played for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse gave Bo at ultimatum – play football or baseball but not both. Jackson decided on baseball, and a year later resumed his NFL career with the Los Angeles Raiders, before a serious hip injury suffered in the playoffs ended his four-year career. Jackson played for the Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels before retiring following the 1994 season. He is still the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports.

Sanders, a cornerback at Florida State, began both his baseball career with the Yankees and his football career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1989. He is the only player to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week (he achieved both in his rookie season), and the only athlete to play in both a World Series and a Super Bowl. Deion batted .533 in the 1992 World Series, and won a Super Bowl in 1995 while playing for the 49ers.

Sanders played for the Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins in the NFL, and after sitting out several seasons, made a comeback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2005. In baseball, he played for the Yankees, Atlanta Braves,Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.

Yankee Gridiron Connections: George Halas played six games in the outfield for the Yankees in 1919 before Babe Ruth came aboard the following season. For nearly 50 years, Halas was a player, coach and owner of the Chicago Bears and won six NFL championships…John Elway, a third baseman, played two years in the minors with the Yankees, but went on to lasting glory as a quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Elway won Super Bowls in both 1998 and 1998, his final two seasons in football.


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