In the summer of 1986, Bo Jackson and Kevin Seitzer played side-by-side on the Memphis Chicks, the Kansas City Double-A farm team. And although there wasn’t any noticeable animosity, the men — now teammates on the 1988 Royals — shared little in common. Unlike Jackson, blessed by the Gods to be an athlete, Seitzer was your prototypical (aka: cliched) scrapper — the white small-college kid (Eastern Illinois) who was drafted fairly late (eleventh round), but lived and died in the cage. Also unlike Jackson, Seitzer stapled every emotion, feeling and opinion to his forehead. During his rookie season, for example, Seitzer’s hometown of Middletown, Illinois, planned on throwing a parade in his honor — until Seitzer made it clear he didn’t like his hometown of Middletown, Illinois. “I doubt they’ll ever have a Kevin Seitzer day,” he said — more threat than reaction.
Seitzer was brash. Loud. Obnoxious. If you had a whitehead on your nose, he told you. If you farted, he was the first to announce it. “He was a gnat,” said Danny Tartabull, the outfielder. “You know, the busy bee in everyone’s conversation. Most guys, before they said something, took the temperature. Not Kevin.”
“Kevin was annoying,” said Jeff Montgomery, a young reliever. “Not a bad person. But he pushed things when it was better to walk away.”
Because he largely kept to himself, Jackson could be hard to read. Were you his pal? Were you not his pal? Sometimes he could be heard laughing. Other times he flashed the sternness of a judge. His size made him intimidating enough that rare was the Royal who challenged him. “The only time I actually saw someone stand up to Bo was [pitcher] Steve Farr,” said Montgomery. “Bo had been told Steve was talking trash about him and he was mad. But that annoyed Steve. He went straight to Bo and said, ‘Do you have a problem? If so, let’s go — me and you.’ Bo could have wrapped Steve up like a pretzel, but he didn’t because he respected Steve holding his ground.”
Bo did not, however, respect Seitzer. “He’s one of the biggest ass-lickers we’ve got on the team,” Jackson said. “He always puts his two cents in. And guys are like, ‘Will you shut the fuck up?’ ”
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One day, early in the 1988 season, the Royals held pre-game batting practice indoors, at the cages beneath the stadium. The team broke into groups of four, and Jackson’s quartet included Seitzer, catcher Ed Hearn and infielder Bill Pecota. “[Kevin] is always the first in the cage,” Jackson said. “He has to be the first to hit. So we’re all back there, he takes his hacks, and I look down. I don’t have nothing [on] but my sliding pants.”
Jackson retreated to the clubhouse and threw on his shorts. When he returned, Hearn was wrapping his swings. Spotting Jackson, Seitzer theatrically jumped into the cage.
“Excuse me,” Jackson said, “but didn’t you just take your fucking turn?”
“Well,” Seitzer said, “you should have been here . . .”
Three or four coaches, as well as a handful of teammates, were standing nearby. Jackson thought Seitzer was (as always) trying to peacock. “Look, man,” Jackson said, “will you just shut the fuck up and get out?”
He then entered the cage, where Seitzer — inches away — continued to lecture on protocol. “Kevin said to Bo, ‘Fuck you — you weren’t here,’” said Brian Watley, a Royals batboy. “Saying ‘fuck you’ to Bo seemed a little risky.”
Jackson was not happy.
“Look, you better stop talking at me,” he said.
Seitzer continued to bark.
“This is my last time telling you,” Jackson said. “Don’t say anything else to me, or I’m going to kick your ass.”
Seitzer exited the cage, Jackson grabbed his Louisville Slugger, stepped in and missed the first pitch. Seitzer snickered.
Jackson threw down his bat, walked toward Seitzer (“With fire in his eyes,” Hearn recalled), grabbed him around the throat with his left hand and shoved his head against the concrete wall. No one with the Royals had witnessed this fast of a Bo metamorphosis. Within seconds Seitzer’s eyes rolled back.
“Look, you picked the wrong motherfucker to fuck with on the wrong day!” Jackson screamed. “As long as you’re breathing air, don’t you ever talk to me like that again! Motherfucker, I will break your neck!”
Dating back to his boyhood in Bessemer, Alabama, Jackson’s philosophy on dishing out an ass-kicking was fairly simple: If anyone steps in to end the ass-kicking, the ass-kicking intensifies. As several of the coaches and players tried separating the combatants, Jackson’s grip grew vise-like.
“Bo!” screamed Bob Schaefer, the first-base coach. “Bo! Bo! Let him go! Bo!”
Jackson wasn’t listening. He was overcome by rage. Too much Kevin Seitzer. His arms, Schaefer recalled, seemed to be growing in thickness by the second. The veins bulged from his left bicep.
“The harder I squeezed, his eyes rolled back in his head,” Jackson said. “And the harder they pulled on me, the stiffer my arm got.”
By now Seitzer’s feet were off the ground. His face was purplish-blue.
“It was like a horror movie,” said Tartabull. “Bo was Jason in Friday the 13th, and Kevin was the camp kid about to be murdered.”
Finally, after what felt like an hour, Jackson released his hold, dropped Seitzer to the floor and stormed back to his locker. He picked up a bat and swung at the nearest wall. Wood and plaster exploded into little chunks.
Seitzer, meanwhile, was escorted to the training room, where he rested with an ice pack affixed to his neck. A still steaming Jackson rose from his stool and entered the room — followed by a half dozen curious/terrified/ wildly entertained teammates. Jackson stood over the battered Seitzer.
“Don’t you ever cross me again,” he lectured. “If you do, I am not going to give those coaches time enough to grab me. I’m going to rip your asshole, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Don’t you ever cross me again.”
Seitzer nodded. About a half hour later, he tiptoed up to Jackson. The cocksureness was gone. “Bo,” he said, “can we just forget what happened back there and be buddies?”
“No,” Jackson said. “The shit don’t work that way. You have said what you want to say, and you mean it, but now you want to come back and ass lick with me and say you’re sorry? No.”
Years later, Seitzer referred to Jackson as “a very good teammate, but not someone I knew that well. We weren’t close.”
Jackson was more blunt.
Kevin Seitzer could go fuck himself.
Excerpted from the book THE LAST FOLK HERO by Jeff Pearlman. Copyright © 2022 by Jeff Pearlman. From Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.