Two-sports figures have been infrequent.  But those with elite basketball and football skills seem to compete well in baseball when they do try out double duty.

Chuck Conners who starred decades ago in the great show the Rifleman was an NBA and MLB player.  A 6'6" giant in his day, Wikipedia says this: During his Army service, Connors moonlighted as a professional basketball player, joining the Rochester Royals and helping to lead them to the 1946 National Basketball League championship.[5] Following his military discharge in 1946, he joined the newly formed Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America becoming the first professional basketball player to be credited with breaking a backboard. Connors took a shot that caught the front of the rim of an improperly installed glass backboard during the Celtics' warm up at Boston Arena.

Connors left the team for spring training with Major League Baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers. He played for numerous minor league teams before joining the Dodgers in 1949, for whom he played in one game. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 1951, playing in 66 games as a first baseman and occasional pinch hitter.[7] In 1952, he was sent to the minor leagues again to play for the Cubs' top farm team, the Los Angeles Angels (TB note: likely leading to his acting transition). He was also drafted into American Football by the NFL's Chicago Bears, but never suited up for the team.

Others have tried and some have greatly succeeded.

Dave Debusschere was a former Knicks great (who I used to see on the Hempstead train line occasionally in the 1980s commuting to NYC from Garden City in really sharp suits).  He was 3-4, with an amazing 2.90 ERA  as a 21-22 year old pitcher before focusing on being a star NBA player.

Bo Jackson could have been a great baseball player had be not stuck with football long enough to need a hip replacement from a hit to the hip. He had 32 homers and 105 RBIs in 1989 in 135 games.

Brian Jordan had a fine two sport career between to MLB and NFL.  He had 184 homers and 821 RBIs from the early 1990s to the early 2000’s.

Deion Sanders – ditto.  The speedster stole 186 bases in his career, including 32 in 92 games in 1994.
Then there are two guys who starred in their initial sport, but did not (or have not yet) made the majors:

Michael Jordan was a top 5 all-time NBA player, who decided he’d try baseball out at age 31.  Thrown directly into AA ball, he did not embarrass himself: 497 plate appearances, 436 ABs, .202/.289/.266 with a fine 30 of 48 in steals in 127 games.   Baseball’s 1995 strike thwarted Jordan’s gambit at a major league baseball career, and he returned to the hardwood to dazzle for additional years in the NBA. 

If I had to pick one guy for my team in an NBA finals, in all of NBA history, it would have been MJ.  A hoops assassin if I ever saw one.

Given a little more time, he’d have made it to the major leagues, too – he was too supreme a competitor not to.  Baseball's strike screwed that up.

Clearly, pro NBA and NFL players have shown the ability to play at superior levels in baseball.  What about the other guy on folks' minds these days?

TIM TEBOW follows this auspicious group in his quest for the major leagues.  Some say starting at 29 was too old, but Michael Jordan started at age 31 and I firmly believe would have made it to the majors if not for the baseball strike.

The other 4 former 2-sports stars shows that superior physical skills and the demanding training required of NFL and NBA players can result in much more than marginal major league success.  Tebow is a better all around athlete than your average minor leaguer, undoubtedly.

Tebow had the benefit of not starting out in AA like Jordan did.  He started 2 levels lower, with Full A ball Columbia.  At 31, Jordan had to be rushed.  Tebow had the luxury of a less accelerated pace due to being younger.

He hit like most Full A Fireflies did - so-so - and nonetheless got promoted to St Lucie where he tore it up like few expected - for the first roughly 30 games there. 

The last 10 or so, though, have had him running headlong into a hitting drought (4 for 38 in his last 10 games through Tuesday, with 13 Ks, leaving him at .248/.316/.416 in the land of the Lucies). 

Now, going 4 for 25 on balls put into play (5 for 29 after last night) has to infer a certain amount of bad luck and perhaps soft contact, so there should be hope of a rebound.  I believe also that he has seen more lefthanders of late, against which he is hitting .222 (10 for 45) during his St Lucie stint.  A lefty hitting lefties is almost always a task involving a learning curve.

Given the slump, thoughts of bringing up to AA that had to have been percolating certainly have to be on hold for now, to show how he deals with the current adversity.  A hot week could change that.  Another bad week could cement that. (Of course, his game-deciding base hit last night doesn't hurt him, and with Bruce traded, his slim chances of a September call up got a slight boost).

Whichever way it goes, watching a 2 sport guy try to make it in baseball is always fascinating.


Hobie said...

Chuck Conners! Oh my!

OK, Gen Conley was arguably the most successful two major-sport player (11 seasons in MLB, 7 in the NBA) and only one of TWO to win championships in the two sports (Celtic & Milw Braves).

Who was the other?

Hobie said...

Gene Conley

Mack Ade said...

These are the kind of posts that prove my theory that Brennan is taking too much Ambien.

Thomas Brennan said...

Better drugs than hugs, Mack. That's my motto, especially when thinking of Timmy T. Who may someday be the next Jay Bruce :)

Hobie, I am stumped - answer if you please :)

Hobie said...

Otto Graham!!!

Was a member of the NBA forerunner NBL champion, Rochester Royals, AND AAFC champion Browns in 1946. Three more AAFC and another three NFL titles too.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hobie, nice. You got me on that one.

Anonymous said...

Bob Gibson briefly played with the Harlem Globetrottersbefore reaching the majors with the Cards

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