Bo Jackson and the 1989 All-Star Game

In a preview of this game, the last to be played at the Angels’ stadium before 2010, the Austin American-Statesman wrote:

Tony LaRussa and NL counterpart Tommy Lasorda of Los Angeles each wants to win.

The National League holds a 37-21-1 edge in the series, although the American League has won two of the last three.

The elevation of Jackson in the order is part of a general tone set by LaRussa. The AL is confident about its pitching, but wants to make sure of its run production.

Wade Boggs, who has batted leadoff for the Red Sox this year, has been dropped to the second slot, ahead of Kirby Puckett of Minnesota. Julio Franco of Texas, formerly a leadoff man, is batting fifth, with A’s slugger Mark McGwire eighth.

“We’re trying to change a few things around,” said LaRussa. “This is a game and we plan to win it.

“I like the idea of having some pop at the top of the order. Bo’s also the one guy I have with the speed to disrupt things if he gets on base.

“I know there were two situations (this season) where he came up as leadoff man in an inning and scored each time to beat us.

“The first time, Bo reached second, then scored on a single. The next time, he singled, stole second and came home on another hit.

“I like the idea,” said LaRussa. “It gives us a chance to get on the board early.”

Jackson, who was clearly the crowd favorite during the home run hitting contest Monday (won by the National League, 9-5), seems to relish the challenge.

“I’ll be out there getting the first base hit,” he said, “Or the first punchout of the game. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun.”

In Bo’s first at-bat, this happened, as the L.A. Times explained:

Bo looked at one pitch from National League starter Rick Reuschel.

He swung at the next.

By the time the baseball prepared for re-entry, its shadow could be seen some 448 feet from home plate. The ball didn’t just clear the center-field fence. It landed halfway up the green tarpaulin leading to Tunnel 70, which serves as a viewing backdrop for hitters at Anaheim Stadium.

Once again, Bo had gone where few ever thought to tread. His monstrous blast, the first leadoff home run in an All-Star game since 1977, was immediately followed by a home run from Wade Boggs and, just that fast, the American Leaguers had tied the game and were on their way to a 5-3 victory in the 60th All-Star game.

The home run was estimated at 448 feet, but that’s only because Jackson hit it nearly as high as he did far. Official records aren’t kept, but that may have been the longest pop fly in Anaheim Stadium history.

“When the ball hit the bat,” NL Manager Tom Lasorda said, “it sounded like he hit a golf ball.”

It took off like one, too, drawing such a gasp from the crowd of 64,036 that Texas’ Nolan Ryan stopped warming up in the AL bullpen and hunted down a TV monitor.

“I didn’t know what happened,” Ryan said. “I had to catch it on the replay.”

Reuschel said: “I rarely turn and watch a home run. There was one other time – and that was in spring training – and I watched because I was so sure it was going out.”

Jackson’s was the first leadoff home run in All-Star competition since Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan did it 12 years ago. It also, apparently, was inspirational because Boggs, baseball’s pre-eminent spray hitter, followed him six pitches later with a rare home run, this one traveling a mortal-sized distance of 398 feet.

The back-to-back home runs were the first since Dodgers Steve Garvey and Jimmy Wynn turned the feat in the 1975 All-Star game.

Firsts, firsts. Before the night was through, Bo would lead the world in firsts.

With his next at-bat, coming in the second inning, Jackson hit a routine double-play grounder to shortstop but outran pivot man Ryne Sandberg’s throw to first. In so doing, Jackson prolonged the inning and earned a run batted in, with Ruben Sierra scoring from third on the play.

Then Jackson stole second base, becoming the first All-Star to hit a home run and steal a base in the same game since a fellow named Willie Mays did it in 1962.

Jackson added a single and a strikeout in his last two at-bats before turning left field over to Boston’s Mike Greenwell in the top of the seventh. Not a bad six innings’ work: four at-bats, two hits, two runs batted in, a stolen base and a home run that had the best players in the sport raving and running out of superlatives.

As a runaway choice, Jackson was voted the game’s most valuable player.

“I’m a believer,” NL outfielder Tony Gwynn announced. “Bo can do anything. It’s scary, it’s scary . . .

“He changes the way people think about the game. He’s redefining the game as we speak.”

“I had butterflies when I was in the on-deck circle,” Jackson said. “But when I got to the plate, I put tunnel vision on the pitcher and decided to just do what comes natural.”

“It wasn’t a strike. The ball I hit, I swung like I swing a golf club. Luckily, I got a piece of it.”

After the game, LaRussa said of having Bo leadoff: “Unfortunately for me, that’s exactly what I saw last week (from Jackson). I saw home runs, line drives, stolen bases.

“I figured it’d be exciting.”

“I hate to be compared with players of the past,” said Jackson. “They do their thing and I do mine. If you start believing that you compare with them, it will mess you up. It will get you out of the game faster than anything.”

“He’s awesome,” said Mark McGwire. “And he is such a good person. He won’t let you know he’s that good, but you find out by watching him.”

Jimmie Reese, the 83-year-old coach with the California Angels, said: “I’ve been around baseball 70 years. I’ve never seen anyone as strong as that kid Jackson. This fellow has a body like I’ve never seen on a baseball player.”

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Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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