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Bo Jackson to Cultivate New Hobby: Playing for Raiders : Royals' Owner Says OK, but Some Players Aren't So Sure

July 12, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Vincent (Bo) Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner, deer hunter and Kansas City Royals baseball player, is set for a new challenge.

What worlds lie unconquered? How about becoming a presidential candidate? He'd have to wait until he's 35. Succeeding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? He'd have to grow about a foot.

How about becoming a Raider in his spare time?

Why not, Jackson said at a press conference Saturday in Toronto, adding that he'd like to play for the Raiders in the baseball off-season.

"Any way you have to look at it, anything that comes after baseball is a hobby, like hunting or fishing," Jackson said before the Royals' 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays.

"I may pick up another hobby after baseball. That's all it is, I'm thinking of picking up another hobby.

"My No. 1 priority is baseball and the Kansas City Royals. I'm sorry but I've got to go to work now."

Royal management, which has the contractual right to bar him from football, says it would be all right. In Kansas City, the speculation is that the Royals aren't standing in his way for fear of losing him altogether, that they hope the experiment will convince him to concentrate on baseball.

"We don't want to diminish our team at all," Royal General Manager John Schuerholz told the Kansas City Star, "but if Bo wants to play football, we'll let him.

"We're willing to let him try it for one year. I think it'll be interesting (to see) what kind of shape he's in."

Baseball's regular season ends Oct. 4, the day of the Raiders' fourth game. Assuming no post-season involvement for the Royals and several weeks to practice with the Raiders, Jackson would be available for about half the NFL season.

Neither Al Davis, the Raiders' managing general partner, nor Coach Tom Flores could be reached Saturday, but their posture since drafting Jackson on the seventh round in April has been that they'd be interested in whatever time he could give them.

Jackson's agent, Richard Woods of Mobile, Ala., could not be reached. He reportedly has been on the West Coast talking to Raider officials. The Raiders are reportedly offering a multi-year contract.

Raider players had mixed reaction to the news that Jackson wants to play both sports.

Said safety Mike Davis: "I believe it can be done."

Defensive end Howie Long, while acknowledging Jackson's athletic ability, said, "He's crazy if he thinks he can do both."

As for the Royal players, several were especially incensed by it all.

"They (the Kansas City front office) don't give us any respect," Willie Wilson, a former high school football player, said before Saturday's game. "A three-month player is not going to come in and tell us what to do.

"I'm not mad at Bo. I'm mad at the front office. The front office ain't got no respect for the rest of the team and that ain't right.

"I got 900 restrictions on my contract, telling me I can't do this or that because it's hazardous to my health. I'm mad, and the team's mad. You can write it. I don't care. If they release me, they release me.

"How would you like to have Howie Long running into your fanny as a hobby?"

Danny Tartabull called it "bad for the team," and Frank White said, "It's obvious the game isn't about winning or losing any more. It's about saving money, making money, putting people in the seats."

Said George Brett: "There are people upset about him, and there are people behind him. I'm behind him.

"I thought it was strange that he wanted to play baseball in the first place with all of his football ability. I wish Bo all the luck in the world and hope he doesn't get hurt. Right now as a ballplayer, he has all the ability in the world but he's very raw. We want to see Bo at his peak."

Then Brett added with a grin: "Maybe, I can go Brahma bull riding now. Or take up sword fighting."

Friday night, with the Royals en route to their fifth straight loss, Jackson struck out twice, was pinch-hit for in the seventh inning, stormed from the bench, emptied his locker and departed for the team's hotel before the game ended.

Royal co-owner Avron Fogelman, who flew to Toronto to talk to Jackson, said Friday night's game was not a factor in Jackson's decision.

"Bo expressed his desire to us to consider playing football this fall, and the Royals think it is very important to do whatever is in Bo's best interests," Fogelman said. "Bo is a member of the Royals, be assured of that. He assured me the only way he will not be a member of the Royals is if we tear the shirt off his back. . . . He will be a Royal first, last and always."

In Saturday's 2-1 Kansas City victory, Jackson went 1 for 3, getting an infield single, to raise his batting average to .254, with 18 home runs, 45 runs batted in--and 113 strikeouts.

Jackson's three-year, $1-million baseball contract has a no-football clause, which stipulates that he can leave the Royals by giving notice on July 15--Wednesday--and repaying all the money he has earned.

However, if he plays football only in the baseball off-season and returns to the Royals, Jackson would not be required to give notice or repay any money.

Jackson's usefulness to the Raiders this season would be limited by his late start. However, with the Raiders thin at tailback since it is probable that Napoleon McCallum will not be available, they have been looking for help. For the Raiders, the coup would be signing Jackson to a multi-year contract, securing his NFL rights, then convincing him to return to football full time.

Jackson is scheduled to go home to Bessemer, Ala., during the All-Star break. He is expected to talk to Woods there and figure out his next move.

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