Jackson confident that he'll be back

March 20, 1991|By Tracy Ringolsby | Tracy Ringolsby,Dallas Morning News

HAINES CITY, Fla. -- By 9 a.m. yesterday, the gloves and bats had been cleared from his locker and the "Jackson" name plate removed. The Kansas City Royals, his teammates only 16 hours earlier, met in a back room of the clubhouse, talking about life after Bo.

And in that otherwise deserted locker room, Bo Jackson, 28, leaned on the crutches made necessary by a controversial left hip injury, the one that led the Royals to release him Monday.

"I'll haunt the Royals," he said. "Once I heal, I'll be more reckless than before. I'm like a caged stallion that's been running free in the mountains and someone has put me in a cage.

"Once I'm out, I'm going to come out like someone lit a match. It will be like 'Friday the 13th, Part So and So . . . He's back.' "

Jackson wanted it made clear the Royals' stunning move hadn't left him bitter. The quick release, he said, stemmed in part from lingering resentment over his 1987 decision to pursue careers in two professional sports.

"It is like a load has been lifted," he said. "My mental state is better than anybody thought it would be. My wife being a psychologist helps a lot. I get free lessons."

Jackson disagreed with the Royals' diagnosis of the left hip injury he suffered Jan. 13 while playing for his other pro team, the Los Angeles Raiders. Dr. Steve Joyce, the Royals' team physician, said Jackson had developed early avascular necrosis, a condition that cuts off the blood supply to part of the bone, which dies.

Instead, Jackson said, his personal physician, Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., has described the injury as a dislocated hip, resulting in strained ligaments.

"But I don't want this to become the 'War of the Roses,' " Jackson said. "I'm not the type of person who is going to get upset about something like this . . . They made a business decision, strictly business."

The Royals' decision was to minimize their losses by releasing Jackson, scheduled to make $2.375 million this season.

By placing him on irrevocable waivers, the Royals gave the other major-league teams until 2 p.m. Friday to claim him and assume the contract. If more than one team claims him, priority goes to the AL team with the worst record last season. If no team claims him, the Royals will be responsible for one-sixth of his 1991 salary -- $395,833.33 -- and Jackson will be free to negotiate with any other club.

The New York Yankees, who first drafted Jackson in 1982, have the first shot at him. Yankees officials said yesterday they were exploring the possibility of making that claim. Jackson said the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers would be among his first choices.

Jackson said he would use the Royals' decision as motivation.

The Royals, he said, never accepted his choice in 1987, his second season with the club, to play for the Raiders during the baseball offseason. Avron Fogelman and Ewing Kaufmann co-owned the Royals at the time, with Fogelman serving as the front man. But Fogelman ran into financial problems, and Kaufmann regained 100 percent ownership this winter.

"Avron Fogelman gave me the OK to play football, and when everyone else found out, they were upset," Jackson said. "There has always been some sour notes from the moment I told everybody I was going to play football. When I showed them I could do it, that put more of a sour taste in their mouth."

Jackson spent most of yesterday meeting privately with former teammates, manager John Wathan and general manager Herk Robinson. Jackson showed no remorse or anger, emotionless until he talked about his teammates, particularly pitcher Tom Gordon, to whom Jackson had assumed "a big brother" role.

"The tears I have are not about leaving the Royals," Jackson said. "The tears I have are for the friends I'm leaving. In my situation, it's hard to make friends. It took me four years to make the friends I have now. It's a sad, empty feeling, but this is a job. When something like this happens, you have to go on. You can't sit back and mope."

The Royals, too, went on, business as usual.

"I tried to use this as a positive for the players who are still with us," Wathan said. "It shows anybody can have an injury at anytime in his career. It shows you need to go out and bust your tail anytime you're on the field because you can lose it at any time."

Now, there is doubt Jackson can add any chapters to his athletic saga.

"From talking to him, he doesn't know what to think," Gordon said. "He doesn't know where to turn. He's lost . . . Bo knew what the consequences would be if something like this happened."

The Royals' Robinson remained convinced the club had the most realistic medical appraisal of Jackson's condition.

After Jackson initially injured the hip, Robinson said, X-rays showed a dislocated hip. Another set of tests Feb. 14-15 showed cartilage in the hip area had deteriorated. And Friday, Joyce found the hip bone was deteriorating, Robinson said.

Jackson said he respected Joyce but put more faith in Andrews, who examined him Monday in Birmingham.

"Dr. Andrews said it was just going to take time," Jackson said. "He has done surgery on me before and said he has never seen a human heal as fast as I do."

But with Jackson eligible for free agency after the 1992 season, the Royals decided it wasn't worth gambling the $2.375 million for this season, knowing he could walk away after the next.

That was no surprise, said Royals first baseman George Brett.

"The players nowadays realize this is a business and not a game any more," Brett said.

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