Bo wishes anatomy would run its course Nearing deadline, his focus is game

March 11, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Bo Jackson has gone from being a two-sport superstar to the Bo with the most famous hip this side of Bo Derek.

And he isn't thrilled with all the attention his anatomy is getting.

A year after an unsuccessful comeback and subsequent hip-replacement surgery, Jackson is working against a deadline in an effort to earn a spot on the Chicago White Sox. He has five games left, including one here tomorrow night against the Orioles, before the White Sox are supposed to make a decision.

It is the same scenario Jackson faced last year, when he spent the season on the disabled list. There is a distinct possibility Jackson could be on the DL when this season starts -- the difference being, however, that he could be ready to play if needed.

The White Sox have an agreement with Jackson to either pick up a $910,000 option or buy out his contract for $150,000. Last year the two sides compromised on the $109,000 minimum major-league salary.

But Jackson, 30, has given indication this spring that he actually might be able to make it back from what was supposed to be a career-ending injury. The right-handed slugger doesn't like to talk about the deadline any more than he does about his hip.

"I don't talk about it [the March 15 deadline] because I don't think about it," he said earlier in the week.

White Sox general manager Ron Schueler also doesn't seem threatened by Monday's deadline. "If we think we need a longer look, we can get an extension," he said. "That should be no problem."

Jackson, who had a pair of doubles in yesterday's game against the Indians, is 5-for-15 in the four games he's played this spring. That despite a nagging hamstring strain that further complicates the picture. "I don't want him blowing it out trying to impress us," said Schueler.

"I'm not going to put pressure on him to rush to get ready -- and we don't want to make a quick decision. There's no deadline on Bo."

Schueler, in fact, indicated that an extension could be agreed upon before the weekend is over.

In the meantime, Jackson is watched more closely than any player in spring training -- with his left hip scrutinized more than his swing. "This is being blown out of proportion," he said earlier in the week. "You [the media] should be dealing with an athlete who is coming back from an injury. You shouldn't be putting a diagram of a hip on television, because you're not doctors.

"To be honest, this [the media attention] is a pain," said Jackson. "I wish I could be [infielder] Joey Cora, somebody normal who comes in, gets dressed and goes home."

Of course, if Jackson were just another player, he wouldn't command the endorsements that pay him much more than baseball -- and draw even more attention than the horde of media that watches his every move.

His attempt to come back from the injury that ended his football career and has kept him out of baseball for most of the last two years is being thoroughly documented as much because of the man as the surgery.

It is his unique ability that makes this comeback attempt even remotely possible. Jackson knows many medical experts think he's attempting the impossible.

"There's a lot of doctors who don't think I should be doing this and there's a lot who say I can," he said. "Opinions are what makes the world go around.

"I'm living my life for myself," said Jackson, who was forced to call it quits for the season about this time last year. This time around, out wardly at least, Jackson has displayed total confidence in his ability to play this year.

But the White Sox have given no indication as to the direction they're leaning. And it could be that more than playing ability will affect their decision.

The impact of Jackson's marketability is not lost on the White Sox. His presence, along with the team's recently re-designed uniforms, have made White Sox items among the most popular in sports.

Whether Chicago owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn, two of the leaders in baseball's restructuring process, are willing to spend $910,000 on Jackson's marketability remains to be seen. The team he's on may actually be a bigger deterrent to Jackson's comeback than his famous hip.

Although Jackson has played a couple of games at first base, Frank Thomas makes that a closed position. And if Jackson is going to be the designated hitter, White Sox manager Gene Lamont will have to figure out what to do with George Bell.

Tim Raines, Lance Johnson, Ellis Burks, Dan Pasqua and Shawn Abner make the outfield an even more questionable place than usual for Bell. And, although a trade is possible it's also unlikely.

In the meantime, Jackson tries to go about his business as routinely as possible. Because he is Bo Jackson that means living with conflicting medical opinions, fan curiosity and a media circus.

Bo knows attention, and is getting to know it better by the day.

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