Bo Jackson

The greatest athlete ever.

Why we like him: There has never been a better athlete to walk the earth than Bo Jackson. To me, there's not even an argument about it. He was one of the fastest, strongest, smartest, and charismatic people the world of sports has ever known. His baseball career spanned just eight seasons. Known primarily for his five seasons in Kansas City, Bo also spent two seasons in Chicago with the White Sox, and played 75 games in the 1994 seasons for the California Angels (Remember that?).

Bo finished his career with a .250 batting average, which is honestly a little low, even for the offensively starved 1980s, but his 107 home runs from 1987 to 1990 made him one of the most legitimate power hitting threats in the league. The 1989 season was probably his most impressive, batting .256 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI, and he finished tenth in the MVP race at the age of 26. And by the way, he never really reached his prime because of the hip injury he sustained in the 1991 NFL playoffs.

Like Dale Murphy, if you can't put Bo in the Hall of Fame, there's no point in having a hall. Even the tone people use when discussing Bo Jackson has a sense of reverence and respect you don't even hear when you talk about other athletes.

Here are a list of true facts about Bo Jackson, many of which can be seen on Youtube:

  • Scouts frequently said Bo hitting a baseball made a sound they'd never heard before. Older scouts said the only other time they heard it make that sound was from the bat of Josh Gibson.
  • Bo once caught a deep drive on the warning track, and instead of crashing into the wall, Bo ran on the wall...for three steps.
  • Bo had a propensity for striking out and sometimes broke his bat over his knee or even his helmet as if it was a twig.
  • Bo was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.12 seconds at the NFL combine.
  • With Harold Reynolds, a pretty fast baserunner, on first base, Bo ran down a deep drive to the rightfield corner by Scott Bradley. Bo picked up the ball on the warning track, stood flat-footed and threw a strike in the air to Royals catcher Bob Boone who tagged out Reynolds sliding at the plate.
  • Bo routinely hit balls deep into the second fountain at Kaufman Stadium which is listed at 447 feet from the plate.
  • When Bo suffered his hip injury in the 1991 NFL playoffs, the Raiders' trainer said, "Bo says he felt his hip come out of the socket, so he popped it back in, but that's just impossible. No one's that strong."
No one except Bo Jackson.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bo Jackson, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Ken Johnson

The profile of an extremely unlucky man.

Why we like him: Another day, another Colt .45. Yesterday, after the Angels' Ervin Santana pitched a no-hitter after actually trailing in the first inning, I couldn't help but think about the only man in the history of the game who actually went on to get the loss in a no-hitter.  Ken Johnson, to this day, remains the only pitcher ever to lose a complete game, nine-inning no-hitter. On April 23, 1964, while playing for the beloved Houston Colt .45s, Johnson pitched nine innings against the Cincinnati Reds without surrendering a hit and ended up losing the game 1-0.

The lone run in the contest was scored in the top of the ninth inning by none other than a spry, young 23-year old future legend, Pete Rose. With one out in the inning, Rose reached second base on a throwing error by Ken Johnson himself after a comeback grounder to the mound. After a Chico Ruiz ground out moved Rose over to third, Johnson induced a ground ball from Vada Pinson, but another costly error charged to Hall-of-Famer-to-be Nellie Fox allowed Rose to score. The next batter, Frank Robinson popped out to left to end the inning. The Colt .45s failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and Johnson's dubious date with destiny had arrived.

Johnson's final line for the day: 9IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 R, 0 ER, Loss. Ouch.

Three years later, the Orioles' Steve Barber and Stu Miller managed to combine for a no-no and still lose 2-1 to the Detroit Tigers. In 1990 Andy Hawkins of the Yankees lost an eight-inning no-hitter at Chicago's Comiskey Park 4-0 after 3 errors in the eighth. However, no one has ever managed to be as good as Ken Johnson was that day and lose. As good as his stuff may have been, his luck was that much worse.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ken Johnson, Ballplayer.

Dale Murphy

A 1988 Donruss Dale Murphy, the first baseball card that I remember owning.

Why we like him: If you are an American boy who was born south of Kentucky and east of Louisiana between 1978 and 1983, there's a 99% chance you thought Dale Murphy was the single greatest human being in the history of the universe during your childhood. I know I certainly did. Murphy was the lone elite player for some pretty dreadful Braves teams during the 1980s. He was the winner of back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983 and really the only player in major league history who could make the "'80s blue" Braves uniforms look decent.

If Dale Murphy isn't a player worthy of the Hall of Fame, then there's really no point in having a hall of fame at all. During the eight-year stretch of his prime in 1980-1987, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous hitter anywhere in the league. He was a consistent presence in the home run leaders list year after year, leading the league in homers in 1984 and 1985. He even swatted 44 dingers in 1987. He was also a steady RBI man, leading the league in 1982 and 1983, and consistently batted just under .300. Despite beginning his career as a catcher, Murphy finished his career with five Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield, and when you make a list of the best all-around outfielders of his era, there's no way you could leave him out.

Murphy finished his 18-year career with a .265 average and 398 home runs and retired at the age of 37 back when 398 home runs was still impressive. Had he hung around to hit two more, he may have gotten a little more consideration from the Hall of Fame voters, but in my opinion, he's more than worthy. He was one of the best players in baseball who happened to play for a bad team in Atlanta during an era of offensive impotence that featured scores you'd usually only see in soccer.

Here's a story just to give you an idea of what Dale Murphy meant to kids back then: On the day my little sister was born, I went to the grocery store with my dad. I was six years old and just starting to realize how much I loved baseball. While we were checking out at the cash register, my dad saw me eyeing a pack of '88 Donruss baseball cards (the single ugliest card design ever, I think), and being in a good mood, he told me I could get a pack. I was pumped. Dale Murphy was even on the box holding the packs. Before we even got out the door, I excitedly ripped the pack open, eager to see who I got. The very first card on the top in the pack was Dale Murphy. I think I stared at the card the entire way home without having a clue as to what the stats on the back even meant. I was so stoked I wrapped a rubber band around the cards with the Murphy on top and took the whole pack to school with me the next day. My teacher asked me if I had any exciting news to tell the class from the day before, clearly wanting me to tell the class that my little sister was born. Instead, I held up the cards and said, "I got a Dale Murphy." That pretty much says it all.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dale Murphy, Ballplayer.