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Ex-Bucs pick plays replacement part

Move over, Bo Jackson.

While Jackson's place _ maybe it's a hole _ in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history is secure, he now shares it with Mike Busch. Both men are former Bucs draft choices who spurned Tampa Bay in search of major-league baseball glory.

Jackson played eight years with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels, starring also with the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders before a hip injury ended his career. Busch, the Bucs' 10th-round pick in 1990, knocked around the Dodgers' minor-league system for five years before showing up this week.

Busch may never attain Jackson's celebrity, but his first three days in Los Angeles were compelling.

Busch is the first replacement player brought up to the Dodgers this season. For two days, he was shunned by teammates, called a "back-stabber" by one of his best friends and given a "scab go home" edict in a players-only meeting.

When word of Busch's treatment filtered out, Dodgers fans showered him with ovations while booing strong union supporters such as Brett Butler. Butler was so unnerved by the response, he told teammates he was considering retirement. Instead, Butler came to the clubhouse early Thursday to meet with Busch, then called a players-only meeting for a little damage control.

Busch, Butler, Eric Karros and Mike Piazza later held a news conference to chide the media for practicing "sensationalism at its best." Snippets of the news conference were shown on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard before Thursday's game.

Butler said he was hurt by public reaction because he is a compassionate man. He said he disagreed with Busch's spring-training decision to be a replacement player but did not dislike him.

Busch, a third baseman, has become an unwitting fan favorite.

When he lined his first big-league hit to leftfield in a pinch-hitting appearance in Thursday's 6-5 victory over the Mets, he got one of his three standing ovations of the night.

The tight end from Iowa State never made it to Tampa Bay camp in 1990, signing with the Dodgers after they drafted him in the fourth round that summer.

"Every fall I still get that football itch; it's a part of me," he said. "I don't regret my decision not to sign with the Bucs, but a little part of me will always wonder about it."

Busch said the Bucs never factored into his decision. It simply was a baseball-vs.-football choice.

"It was the hardest decision I ever had to make," he said. He looked around the Dodgers clubhouse. "Well, one of the hardest."

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