Superhuman is the only word that describes Bo Jackson. Massive home runs, unbelievable throws from the outfield, amazing catches and speed to burn highlighted his baseball career. The crushing blow he laid on Seattle’s Brian Bosworth during his NFL days with Los Angeles Raiders remains legendary.
Yet, it was a non-baseball move by Jackson that capped one of the most extraordinary athletic feats ever seen. On May 31, 1990, Jackson lined a shot to the right field corner of Royals Stadium. As the ball crashed into the corner of the outfield fence, it caromed drastically to the left and flew by a scrambling Jose Canseco.
Jackson raced around the bases at warp speed sliding easily into home ahead of a wild throw to the plate. It took only 14 seconds for Jackson to circle the bases. That feat alone led Royals second baseman Frank White to say, “I really did play baseball with Superman.”
However, Jackson was not done. Laying supine in the dirt with his heart surely racing, Jackson almost immediately performed an acrobatic kip and stunningly snapped to his feet helping me make one of my favorite photographs.
There is profound tenant in sports photography that a play is not over until it has completely played out. Keeping my camera focused on Jackson after he scored helped me take a picture no one else made that night. The Associated Press quickly picked up the image for the nation and world to see after I sent it to the newspaper in Topeka.
A friend with the Los Angeles Times sent me their early edition sports section from the day after Jackson’s effort. For their early editions, space held for stories and photos from a Dodgers or Angels game was usually filled with a feature story and photo. On that day, my photograph of Jackson’s kip filled the entire upper half of the paper. Even if it only lasted until the next edition of the paper, seeing that huge image in print stunned me.
For all his speed, Jackson hit only one inside-the-park home run. A tragic hip injury while playing for the Raiders brought the blazing comet that was Jackson back to earth. Jackson’s retired from football in 1991 and his baseball career ended in 1994. Yet thanks to YouTube videos, and maybe this photograph, fans can still look back on Jackson’s greatness in amazement.