Baseball is known for signature moments. The Willie Mays basket catch. Babe Ruth’s called shot. Kirk Gibson’s fist-pumping walk off in the 1988 World Series. Sid Bream’s miraculous race around the bases. And on June 5, 1989, when the Kansas City Royals were visiting the Seattle Mariners, Bo Jackson added The Throw.
After the end of nine innings, the score stood tied, 3-3. The Royals went down in order in the top of the 10th, bringing the Mariners up to bat in the bottom of the inning and setting the stage for Jackson.
With one out, Seattle second baseman Harold Reynolds slapped an infield single between third base and shortstop. The next batter, Mariners catcher Scott Bradley, worked a full count from Kansas City pitcher Steve Farr. On the next pitch, Bradley ripped a sharp double to left field. The fleet-footed Reynolds, who, two years earlier, had led the American League in steals, was off on the pitch.
Bradley’s blast one-hopped the wall, 330 feet away, as Reynolds was digging his way to third. As the ball came off the wall, it caromed to the waiting left fielder. Jackson turned and fired a flat-footed missile.
Reynolds was steaming for home when he was shocked to see the on deck hitter Darnell Coles frantically pumping his arms, giving him the signal to slide. Reynolds’ initial thought was, “Slide? Are you kidding me?”
He was about to go into what he termed a “courtesy slide” when he saw the reason for Coles’ desperate signaling. Jackson had thrown a perfect strike.
The throw had traveled some 300 feet in the air to Royals catcher Bob Boone, who swung his mitt out, tagging Reynolds as he slid in the right hand batters’ box. Reynolds then threw his helmet across the dirt in disgust.
The play was so ridiculously improbable that the umpires, who had rotated on the hit, were caught out of position. Home plate umpire Larry Young, who had rotated out to third, finally came to his senses and threw up his fist, calling Reynolds out.
In post-game interviews, Bradley, who was stranded at second base, would say, “Now I’ve seen it all.” Seattle manager Jim Lefebvre said of the throw, “That was just a supernatural, unbelievable play.” Future Hall of Famer George Brett would say of his teammate’s play, “This is just not a normal guy.”
For his part, the notoriously hard-to-impress Bo would say of the play, “I just caught the ball, turned, and threw. End of story. It’s nothing to brag about.”
The Royals would win the game 5-3 in 13 innings, but the Bo Jackson throw lived on.
Jackson’s career would abruptly end in January of 1991 on a football field in Cincinnati. But in his short career, he gave us numerous stories and plays we will never forget.
After the throw, Reynolds reportedly sat in the clubhouse long after the game had ended, watching the play over and over again, trying to make sense of what happened. H&A
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