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Jeff Pearlman | NYT Best-Selling Author

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The Truth Network Radio
October 27, 2022 6:10 am

Jeff Pearlman | NYT Best-Selling Author

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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October 27, 2022 6:10 am

NYT Best-Selling Author Jeff Pearlman joins the show to discuss his new work, "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson".

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What's up, everybody? Guess who's hosting a new podcast? No Mercy with Stephen A. Smith. Listen as I pull back the curtain on everything beyond the world of sports. Interviewing influential guests, outspoken celebrities, and thought leaders across the political, financial, and social spectrum.

You know me, I'll give you my unbiased opinion. A No Mercy episode drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. No Mercy with Stephen A. Smith, a presentation of Cadence 13, an Odyssey studio available on the Odyssey app or wherever you listen to your podcast. Throughout the 60s and 70s, cops hunted down key figures of the Dixie Mafia, including its enigmatic ring leader, Kirksey Nix. I'm interested in making money. I'm not interested in hurting people. 15 years into Kirksey's life sentence, the Dixie Mafia was practically folklore.

But that would soon change. I'm Jed Lipinski. This is Gone South, a documentary podcast from C13 Originals, a Cadence 13 studio. Season two, the Dixie Mafia. Available now on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. The Last Folk Hero, The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson. It's by Jeff Perlman, a New York Times bestselling author. I reached out to him going back over two months ago because I was that anxious to have a conversation with him about Bo Jackson, an athlete that I rooted for wildly, with wild abandon as a fan. And so we're pleased to welcome Jeff joining us from Orange County, California.

Now that the book is officially out. And Jeff, congratulations. Even before we talk about the process of putting together the book, I got to tell you this story. My first ever professional baseball game, my grandfather took me to Cleveland, where the Indians at the time were hosting the Kansas City Royals and Bo Jackson belted three home runs. My grandfather was embarrassed because I cheered so loudly. I was so crazy about the fact that I got to see Bo Jackson hit three home runs, that he actually walked away and kind of left me to cheer on my own. That's one of my favorite Bo Jackson stories personally.

And I can imagine as you were putting together this book, there were some memories of yours, having watched him too. So what is a favorite memory or recollection as a fan of Bo Jackson's that you keep even before you decided you would write a book about him? I would say it was when I was 17 years old, 1989.

And Bo Jackson led off the all-star game with a home run. It was in Anaheim. I always fantasized about living in California. I was in New York. I now live in California. But I always like, there's something about California.

It was like everything about it was just perfect. He led off. It was in California. In the booth was Vin Scully with Ronald Reagan.

What? Yeah, it was a perfect blue sky. And he hit this shot. It was the second pitch of the game from Rick Russell.

And it was just this perfect shot to dead center. And what I learned from working on this book, I did not know, is the whole Bo Knows ad campaign, the big ad with the Bo You Don't Know Diddley ad, was scheduled to premiere during the all-star game, the fourth inning. So all the Nike executives were at Mickey Mantle's restaurant in New York watching this game, nervous about how Bo Jackson would do on the day his AdWords campaign was debuting. And he hits a home run, and in Mickey Mantle's restaurant, all these Nike execs are jumping up and down, screaming, hugging.

And one of them told me, like, everyone else in the restaurant is like, what the hell is wrong with these people, not knowing that they just hit like the jackpot. We all waited for the next one to come out, because everybody loved the Bo Knows campaign for sure. Jeff, this process was extensive, hundreds and hundreds of interviews, and obviously years of writing for it to come together.

So now that you're actually seeing it in print, people are reading it. You're doing interviews about it. How does it feel? It feels exciting and nerve wracking at the same time, and also exhausting. Like, it's exciting that you finish something, you work hard on it, it comes out. You're nauseous because you hope people like it, and you hope it's received well. And you're just like, you find yourself in a whirlwind.

And the weird thing about a book release, there's a writer named Lee Monto I used to work with at SI. And he described it perfectly. He said, you live under a cave for two years. You just live underground for two years. And for two weeks, you come out, and you're in the sun.

And then you go back in your cave again. And that's exactly what it is to have a book about it exactly. Is it worth it when a book like this comes out and people talk about it and read it? Yeah, it is because you feel like you did something, and you have a tangible sort of proof of what you did. And you put it all together, and when you go through it all, and you're calling people, and calling people, and reading, and reading, all you do is obsess over Bo Jackson for two years, it can be really draining and really hard and sort of isolating. So when it comes out, and you get to make the rounds, and you get to do stuff like this, there is a real joy to it.

For real, there is. And you want to share what you know. I love, you're passionate about Bo Jackson. And you have questions about Bo Jackson, and I get to talk. Because my wife is like, I don't want to hear any more about Bo Jackson. My kid's like, I don't want to hear any more about Bo Jackson. But you're happy to hear about Bo Jackson, so I'm happy to be here.

I definitely am. He's the New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, but the newest one just out this week, The Last Folk Hero, The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson. Jeff Perlman is with us after hours on CBS Sports Radio. Why folk hero? Why is Bo Jackson the last folk hero? So the line was originally said by a great writer, Joe Posnanski. I agreed with it 100%, which is nowadays when guys come up, picture your young, whoever your young athlete is, John Marantz, or Joe Burrow, whatever. Whenever they come up, we see and know everything about them from the time they were little, or at least high school.

Every video, TikTok, Twitter, anything. You name it, we see them. And Bo Jackson, there are all these stories, these mythological stories of things he did, balls he hit, runs he made. Oh my god, he ran a 4-1-3-40. No, it was a 4-1-7. No, it was blah, blah, blah. He threw a ball so far.

It broke five windows, you know, all that kind of stuff. But he came along before there was any video proof of it. A lot of them really are. They feel like you're telling a Paul Bunyan story, or a John Henry story. So he really, even, I think what Joe was talking about specifically was his famous throw in Seattle when he got Harold Reynolds at home state. It's probably one of the most viewed throws in the history of baseball. But if you watch it, you'd be surprised, even if you've seen a million times, the camera never shows him releasing the ball.

Like the camera goes to Harold Reynolds around the third. So we all know both through it, but we don't actually know how he threw it. We don't know what it looked like when he released it. We have an imaginary sort of view of it.

We don't know. He's just kind of a folk hero. There's a mythological factor to him. As you were going through the research and talking to so many people who had been part of his life at various stages, did you find out that most of the stories are true or that they are myths and they're not actually founded in truth? I would say most are true.

It's funny. He wrote in his autobiography in 1990, an autobiography he wrote with Dick Shapp, and he wrote about going over his first 21 at Auburn with 21 straight strikeouts. Whoa. And which is crazy and really bad and kind of amazing that someone could be that bad and strike out his first 21 at Bassin College.

It also turns out it's not true. In his first game, they played Illinois State and he was two for five. His first time at it, he had a single. Now then he won one for 19.

But like, so you do wanna double, you triple check, you make sure things are right. Did he run a 4-1-3-40? Yeah, he did. When he went to the Raiders later on, they had him run a 40 on grass and pads and he ran a 4-1-9 and then a 4-1-7.

My God. In high school, he stole 90 out of 91 bases. He set, as a senior, he set a single season high school, national high school record with 20 home runs and in 25 games. And he missed seven games because he had track minutes. He won the state decathlon championship both his junior and senior year in Alabama. He also set five state records in track and field and his senior year, he won the state decathlon championship, sprained his ankle in the process.

But the day after winning it, started his only game of the year for the MacDory baseball team through a complete game 13 strikeout gym. So he was just ridiculous. Like his athleticism is ridiculous and most of it obviously checks out. And yet, I think a lot of people, whether they saw him play for real or didn't, would lament the fact that it seemed like his career ended so abruptly and it ended far too soon.

And I got to tell you, Jeff, your chapter that's entitled HIP, it actually hurts me. Just the idea that he could have been even more and we could have had him longer. But this one line that resonates with me, he took pride in telling people he refused to lift weights. There were no arguments to be made against maintenance yet he didn't run, didn't pump iron, didn't even eat healthy. He was a notorious layabout. That blows me away because as you point out, there could have been more years to his career and yet he didn't care as much about strength training.

Any idea why that is? He was naturally gifted. He just was naturally gifted and things came so easily to him that he really didn't need to.

And also like I would argue against myself a little bit. Like one thing I will say is like the injury he actually, that actually occurred that sort of ruined his hip, it was pretty freakish. Like he was running down the sideline in a Raiders game against the Bengals in the playoffs. A linebacker named Kevin Walker grabs his leg.

He's, Beau is such a strong runner that basically he keeps moving forward while Kevin Walker is pulling backwards and his hip dislodges. And the other thing I'll say, this is gonna sound weird and you may totally disagree. But it's almost like instinctive of us, people in sports and sports fans to say, God, it's such a shame, God, it's such a shame what he could have been. But you can also argue his career and life is much more interesting this way. Like if he goes on to be Eric Dickerson in football and he goes on to be Gary Sheffield in baseball.

Yeah, it's amazing and it's awesome. But there is something really intriguing about the question mark. And there's really something intriguing about a guy vanishing in his basically early thirties and just walking off into the sunset. And maybe he's more interesting that way.

Maybe the conversation is a lot more interesting. In the same way, like we all talk about Kennedy still, but we don't talk about Eisenhower or Woodrow Wilson. Like part of the reason is because Kenny died young so we don't know what was to come. We talk about Tupac and Biggie all the time.

We don't talk about like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys that often because they had fulfilled career. Like there's something about the what if of a person that in a weird way adds to their legacy. My mom and I are huge fans of Jane Austen and her books as many people are. And she also died young in the middle of writing another manuscript.

And the question often is, wow, what if she had lived to be into her sixties or seventies? So agreed with that. Jeff Perlman is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest is The Last Folk Hero, The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson.

And it's available now. It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. There were so many elements to his life as there are to every human who shaped him and the person, the athlete that he eventually became. As you were going through this process and writing, what were you, what would you say are some of the defining factors and elements of Bo Jackson? Well, I think one is he, you know, he was raised by a single mom, Florence Jackson.

One of 10 in a house is a three room house, not a three bedroom house or three room house where kids are sleeping on the floor. She's best for Alabama. He had a severe stutter. He was held back as an early age.

And his father, A.D. Adams lived across town with his other family and had very little interaction with Bo. And I think all those sort of slights in life, poverty, hunger, the abandonment of his father, his mom really struggling to make ends meet, I think really played a very profound role when it came to him finding this escape in sports. You know, like he needed something. He needs somewhere to go.

And I think sports, it's a common town in sports, like sports draws people who are struggling and are looking for a way out and to do something. And I think for him, it really did. Like I'm telling you, we don't talk about these things enough, but literally his dad lived across town and had almost nothing to do with him because he was raising his own family.

Now that has to have an impact on a human being. Yes, in your book, there's a photo of him with his Heisman, his mom and his dad. And that actually jumped out at me after reading about his family and his situation with his dad and yet his dad is there in the photo.

I know, it's really weird. So when he won the Heisman trophy, he invited both his parents and his dad was there. And if you watch the Heisman ceremony, which is on YouTube from 85 when he won it, they're like, he gives a speech and he calls the different people.

My coach is here and my dad is here and my mom is here. And they both stand up, his mom and his dad. And his mom kind of stands up real quickly and his dad soaks it all in. And it's so kind of typical, like his dad had very little to do with his upbringing in any positive way. And his mom was the rock of his life. And his mom was not the one who soaked it in, it was his dad who soaked it in and it's sort of BS the way that happened. He was really scarred by his father. There's no doubt about it. What did his teammates have to say about him in football and in baseball about being part of this career that actually was so successful and all-star in two professional sports?

It kind of runs all over the map. Like in baseball, there's a lot of regret or sadness over what could have been. Like he, when he signed with the Royals instead of going to the NFL out of college, he was like a very, very raw Mike Trout. Like he had Mike Trout talent, he truly did.

He was a, could have been a five tool guy. He had this Greek God body physique. He had all the athleticism. He loved baseball. And for a brief sliver of time, he got really hot in the minor leagues his first year in 86 at Memphis, came up to the majors, showed all these flashes and the Royals really thought they were onto something.

And then he decides to play football. And you know, the team was really upset about that. The players were upset, the front office was upset because they knew he needed development in baseball. So a lot of those guys, Willie Wilson, Frank White, Brett Sabrehagan, really in the newspapers and to his face gave him a lot of grief and felt he was making a huge mistake. And in football, initially, especially, there was a lot of resentment because when he agreed to play football, he referred to it as his hobby. I'm gonna make a hobby out of football. And there's a early in the, early when he reports to the Raiders, one of their linebackers, Rob Martin, just is all over him. And he's basically like, this is this, you may call this a hobby, but this is life for us.

Like this is no hobby to us. And he never, he was not a guy who made super close friends on either team. He had a couple of pals, but he just wasn't that guy. He wasn't hanging out going for beers. He wasn't hidden on women. Like he was a guy who went home to his wife, went home to his kids, and just wasn't. The Raiders and the Royals, neither team had his phone number. They didn't have his home phone number. So when it was time to reach out to him, they had to reach out to him through his agent. Interesting. What type of interaction, if at all, did you have with Bo in writing the book?

Very little. When I first started working on it, I wrote him a letter and sent him a bunch of my books. And one day he called me up. We spoke for about a half hour. It was very pleasant.

He was very nice. He said, he didn't say like, I don't care if you write this book. I have no interest in helping. Like I get approached all the time. I don't want to do it. And I said, that's fine.

I understand. I had a real goldmine moment though, which was, as I mentioned, Dick Shapp wrote his autobiography in 1990. And before Dick Shapp died, he donated all his audio recordings and all his interview transcripts from that experience to the Auburn library. And for 30 years, those things just all basically sat in the basement at the Auburn library.

I was made aware of it. I think I sent Auburn 250 bucks to transfer the interviews onto audio and I received this enormous file with like, I don't know how many pages, maybe 500 pages of transcribed interviews, most of which was never used before. So basically like talking to a 28 year old Bo Jackson and having all this fresh material, it's one of the best finds I've ever had. I was gonna say, what was that like for you?

You're essentially hearing his stories in his own words. It was remarkable. It was amazing. It was almost better than interviewing him now because he was fresh in the moment of it all. And yeah, it was great.

It was great, like really great. And I also read an interview that you did in which you talked about going to his hometown and you had to wait through COVID because that's when you were writing this book. Why was that so important to you to get to the place that essentially created Bo?

I just think you need to see it and you need to understand it. And there's something really physical and tangible about going to the guy's old house and walking up and down the street and trying to understand and knocking on doors. I knocked on doors, talked to some old neighbors of his and people who knew him.

And I get made fun of for this. My wife thought I was crazy, but his where he lived is now abandoned. Like the house is torn down and there hasn't been a house, but there's a, there's, you can still see some of the foundation under the weeds and trash. So I took a brick. I actually dug out a brick from his foundation, put in my suitcase to bring home and I got stopped at TSA in Atlanta. And they're like, why, what is that in your bag? And I was like, that's a brick. And they're like, why are you flying with a brick? And I'm like, do you know who Bo Jackson is? And the guy's like, yeah, I'm like, well, I'm writing a biography of Bo Jackson. His brick is from his house.

And he basically called Melissa over his supervisor. And I'm explaining to Melissa why I'm flying with this Bo Jackson's brick. She's like, all right, you can fly. Go fly with Bo Jackson's brick.

So it's on my desk now. My wife was like, why are you doing this? What are you doing? Where is he now? He lives in suburban Chicago. He's a dad. He's a grandpa.

He's got a bunch of businesses. He's, he always had, what I really like about his life post-sports is you'll never hear him saying like, Derek Henry, he's no Bo. Or, you know, Bryce Harper, he's good, but he's not as good as I was.

Like, never. You just never hear that from him. He sort of moved on, isn't one of those athletes who hangs on and bemoans to the way things are done now.

I admire his life greatly. One thing I did not know, Jeff, until I did some reading in your book is that Bo is not his name. So where did Bo come from?

His name is Vincent Edward Jackson, named after an actor of Vincent Edwards from the show Ben Casey that his mother liked. I had no idea, none. Yeah, but yeah, there you go. Bo is short for Boar, which is short for Boarhog, which is when he was a kid, him and a bunch of his friends, there was a neighborhood farmer who had these hogs, these big hogs. And Bo and his friends, Bo was a real kind of bully as a kid, you know, like really a bully. And he and his friends went with sticks and just for three days beat the living crap out of this boarhog. And he caught on his nickname, Boarhog, and then eventually it got shortened to Bo. So that's where Bo is from. I wonder how often he tells that story.

Probably not that often. And I will say, like, I read about that in the Dick Shab notes and also in his autobiography, and I went to Besper, and I found the guy who owned the hog is dead, but I talked to his son about his dad and the land and all that stuff. So I felt like I really got something there.

Wow. Well, Jeff, obviously you've poured your life and your time and your effort into this book that's just out now. What do you want people to take away from it?

This is gonna sound corny, but I swear it's true. Like, I feel like we live through COVID, we live in crazy political times, blah, blah, blah. I just want people to enjoy it. Like, I just want people to be able to sort of revel in the exploits of the greatest athlete to ever walk the earth and feel like they were a part of it and feel like they have an understanding. I want, what I really want, honestly, I want my kids, my kids' aides, to know who Bo Jackson was and to, like, he's important, and he's the greatest athlete who ever lived. And the way Jim Thorpe was immortalized, I think Bo Jackson deserves that exact same treatment. It's funny because I work with producers and also speak to an audience that does include a lot of sports fans who never saw Michael Jordan, never saw Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, or in my case, Larry Bird is my all-time favorite athlete, Magic Johnson.

Bo Jackson belongs in that category, and I saw a great way to at least capture a piece of him and make him immortal. So the book is out, it's called The Last Folk Hero, The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson, and there's so much we don't know about him. So you wanna grab this book from Jeff Perlman at Jeff Perlman on Twitter, New York Times bestselling author, and I'm so grateful for a few minutes. I learned even more, and I can't wait to finish the book, Jeff, thank you. Oh, thanks for taking interest.

I really do appreciate it. What's up, everybody? Guess who's hosting a new podcast? No Mercy with Stephen A. Smith. Listen as I pull back the curtain on everything beyond the world of sports. Interviewing influential guests, outspoken celebrities, and thought leaders across the political, financial, and social spectrum.

You know me, I'll give you my unbiased opinion. A No Mercy episode drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. No Mercy with Stephen A. Smith, a presentation of Cadence 13, an Odyssey studio available on the Odyssey app or wherever you listen to your podcast. Throughout the 60s and 70s, cops hunted down key figures of the Dixie Mafia, including its enigmatic ringleader, Kirksey Nix. I'm interested in making money.

I'm not interested in hurting people. 15 years into Kirksey's life sentence, the Dixie Mafia was practically folklore, but that would soon change. I'm Jed Lipinski. This is Gone South, a documentary podcast from C13 Originals, a Cadence 13 studio. Season two, the Dixie Mafia, available now on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. Throughout the 60s and 70s, cops hunted down key figures of the Dixie Mafia, including its enigmatic ringleader, Kirksey Nix. I'm interested in making money. I'm not interested in hurting people. 15 years into Kirksey's life sentence, the Dixie Mafia was practically folklore, but that would soon change. I'm Jed Lipinski. This is Gone South, a documentary podcast from C13 Originals, a Cadence 13 studio. Season two, the Dixie Mafia, available now on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-05 20:41:19 / 2022-11-05 20:47:49 / 7

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