Maybe Bo knows, but it is his wife, Linda, who really knows Bo

November 04, 1990|By Samantha Stevenson | Samantha Stevenson,New York Times News Service

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- Bo likes to cook cabbage and prizes his recipes for cornbread, biscuits and catfish. He plays a mean game of hide-and-seek, hates to give autographs when he is with his family, and loves toy stores.

"I know people see a side of Bo that is arrogant," said Linda Jackson, about her much-publicized husband. "But if they could see him when he comes home and watch him from the time he walks through the door until the time he goes to practice the next morning, they would be so awed. They would never think of him in the same light.

"Bo is shy," Linda said. "He really is. And he's funny. Always cracking me up about things I said or did or imitating me and the kids. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He is a great romantic man. A wonderful husband, a good father. And that takes a lot of work. It's not unusual for a female to put the time in, but an athletic celebrity?"

Those who have watched Jackson hit home runs for the Kansas City Royals, run for the Los Angeles Raiders and act in his commercials may have a hard time believing their hero takes out the trash, washes dishes, folds laundry, changes diapers and gets up for the 2 a.m. feeding.

But it's true, and after four years of marriage and three children, Bo and Linda have come to grips with their roles.

"I make a point to be Linda Jackson," she said from their rented home overlooking the ocean in this Los Angeles suburb. "Regardless of whether I'm out there or in here. I made that decision that I cannot be on all the time. This is me. What you see is what you get.

"Bo is so determined to be a normal father, to be a good father to these kids. It comes from the fact that he was so totally without one. Sometimes he overdoes it with the toys. Our house in Kansas City looks like Toys 'R' Us. But, he's good with discipline. He doesn't have to spank them. They respond. I don't know if it's his voice or his size."

Bo and Linda Jackson's confidence has come a long way from the early days of their relationship, when he was a junior at Auburn and she was a graduate student, and she wondered if he would stand by her when she became pregnant.

"He had a lot going on," recalled Linda, as she fingered the marquis diamond on her left hand that is set on top of small diamonds in the shape of a baseball field.

"He was playing in the minor leagues. He kept saying to me: 'I'll never desert you. You know that I love you.' He was happy about the baby. I had way more problems with this than anybody. I kept thinking: 'What if he feels he's obligated to me? He doesn't really want me, he's thinking he should do this.' Emotionally, I became a total wreck."

In his autobiography to be published next week by Doubleday, "Bo Knows Bo," written with Dick Schaap, Jackson talked about his growing attachment to his new family:

"Once we were all together, I knew that the side of Bo Jackson that went around chasing women, going to bars and hitting on women, the side that was a whore, really, was over. It was time for me to settle down."

They were married Sept. 5, 1987, in Kansas City after Bo had made the big leagues with the Royals. It was in taking her wedding vows that Linda promised herself that this family would stay together.

In his book, Bo writes about growing up the eighth boy of 10 children -- as Vincent Edward Jackson -- poor, fast and delinquent in Bessemer, Ala.

"I got my last whipping when I was in junior high," he said. "I was big then, and my mom stood over me with the extension cord in her right hand and a .38 in her left, and she said, 'You run, or you try to take this extension cord away from me and I'm gonna bust you with this pistol.'

"I stood there and took my beating. My mom was right, I was looking for trouble, heading straight to reform school or to prison. She sent one of my older brothers there. He told me what it was like. He didn't sleep the first three nights, fighting off guys who were trying to rape him."

Linda, who has a master's degree in counseling psychology from Auburn, and is preparing her dissertation for her Ph.D., imagines that Bo's mother, Florence, who worked two jobs, as a day maid in homes and a motel maid at night, barely survived the experience.

"We talk about it a lot," she said. "In fact, today, I think I talk more to Bo's mother than he does. She was working all the time. When she would come in, if she couldn't get some amount of peace settled, she was blown out of the water. Bo began to realize that there is more to life than getting into trouble.

"He saw for himself: 'God, I can throw this ball so hard and so far and I have all these natural talents. Maybe I can do something else, besides getting into trouble.' "

It is estimated Jackson earns $1.48 million from the Raiders, $1 million from the Royals (his contract is up and he must either negotiate a new one or go to arbitration) and $5 million from endorsements.

The money has turned Bo into a successful, inventive business.

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