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Let’s See Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders Do This!

California Bowling News
by Fred Eisenhammer

Rick Auerbach played 11 seasons in the major leagues before he emerged as an elite bowler several decades later. Photo by Fred Eisenhammer

Rick Auerbach played 11 seasons in the major leagues before
he emerged as an elite bowler several decades later. Photo by Fred Eisenhammer

Rick Auerbach finished 2015 with yet another milestone: his fifth perfect game. Why bring that up? It’s because Auerbach has cemented his reputation as a prolific two-sport athlete – perhaps one of the best. That too much of a stretch? Not really if you consider what the former major leaguer has done and as long as you recognize that bowling is a sport that requires tremendous focus, concentration, ability and timing. Just like in baseball.

The right-handed Auerbach, averaging an impressive 212 at Corbin Bowl in Tarzana, is someone who immensely enjoys bowling – just like he enjoyed playing in the bigs. But he tends to keep a low profile about his baseball past and many people don’t even realize that he was part of the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine that was chugging out its final winning seasons.

Let’s go over some facts. First, Auerbach racked up his latest perfect game at Corbin Bowl in March – three days after turning 65. He called it “my ‘Medicare 300’ since I just turned 65 and went on Medicare.” He already had chalked up an 800 series (818: 276, 276, 266) three years earlier at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills so he’s reached elite status in bowling. He had smoked his first perfect game in 2008.

Now let’s look at the athletes who have been revered for their outstanding two-sport performances.

There are plenty of them, ranging from Danny Ainge (baseball, basketball), Dave DeBusschere (baseball, basketball) and Brian Jordan (baseball, football) to the morerenowned Deion Sanders (baseball, football) and Bo Jackson (baseball, football). Let’s focus on Jackson because he’s widely considered the best two-sport athlete of all time. A Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was glamorized because of his powerful home runs. And he did hit 32 homers and drive in 105 runs in 1989. But he also struck out 172 times that year and never hit better than .272 in any season. He played four seasons in the NFL (1987-90) and eight years in the majors (1986-1994).  Perhaps most significantly for Jackson and Sanders and all the others is that their achievements basically were compiled concurrently. In other words, these athletes distinguished themselves in their two sports within a space of a few years.

Now we come to Auerbach.

The Woodland Hills resident played 11 seasons (1971-81) for four major league teams, including the Dodgers. Admittedly, he was not a star player with a lifetime batting average of .220 and had only one season with more than 250 at-bats.

Still, he batted a robust .342 for the Dodgers in 1974 as a reserve. And he compiled sparkling batting averages of .327 (1978) and .333 (1980) with the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds, albeit in limited at-bats.

Most importantly, Auerbach is now tearing up the lanes about THIRTY-FIVE YEARS after he played his last major league game.

Can you imagine Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders performing at such a high level in a second sport THIRTY-FIVE YEARS LATER? Sure, bowling is far different from professional football or basketball or baseball. But one still needs to work on one’s bowling game – relentlessly – to perform consistently at a high elite level.

Rick Auerbach played 11 seasons in the major leagues before he emerged as an elite bowler several decades later. Photo by Fred Eisenhammer

Rick Auerbach played 11 seasons in the major leagues before
he emerged as an elite bowler several decades later. Photo by Fred Eisenhammer

And that’s what Rick Auerbach, a tireless devotee to the game, does. Recording an 818 series at 62 even impressed the affable Auerbach. “I should be getting worse, not better,” laughed Auerbach at the time. Unlike Bo Jackson, Auerbach’s knack for striking out is a good thing.

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