Top 10 Multi-Sport Athletes

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In today’s ultra-competitive world of professional athletics, it’s extremely difficult to go pro. Still, there have been a number of physically gifted, insanely versatile athletes who’ve managed to make a name for themselves in multiple, often surprisingly different, competitions. In many cases, these “multi-sport” athletes have managed to rise to the top of the class in more than one sport simultaneously, cementing their reputations as some of the best all-around athletes in history. Here are ten of the most famous examples:

10. Brian Jordan


Baseball and football seems to be one of the most popular two-sport combinations for these athletes, and Brian Jordan is a classic example. After shining on both the diamond and the gridiron throughout high school and college, he began a career in the late 1980’s as both an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and a safety for the Buffalo Bills. Despite his obvious versatility, it’s widely agreed that Jordan was always a better baseball player than he was a football defensive back (he was cut from the Bills’ training camp during his first NFL season), and after only a few years in the NFL, he left the game to pursue baseball full time. Once he narrowed his focus to just one sport, Jordan quickly became a big-time asset to his team, batting nearly .300 and hitting an impressive 22 home runs in 1995. His later career would see him become a journeyman of sorts, playing for the Atlanta Braves on two different occasions (with whom he earned an All-Star Game appearance), as well as for the Rangers and the Dodgers.

Most Impressive Achievement:
Jordan may have become known more as a baseball slugger in his later years, but for a brief period he was one of very few athletes to have ever played both football and baseball simultaneously. After leaving the Bills in the late eighties, Jordan signed with Atlanta, where he played as a defensive back. During his brief stint as a Falcon, he recorded 5 interceptions and 2 safeties, all while also serving as an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

9. Lottie Dod


Easily one of the most versatile female competitors from the early days of organized sports, Lottie Dod was a British athlete who excelled at tennis, golf, archery, and field hockey. She is most famous for her skill at tennis, which saw her win the ladies’ singles championship at Wimbledon five times in the span of seven years, the earliest at age 15. If that’s not impressive enough, it’s worth noting that she didn’t even bother to play the two years she didn’t win, and only lost 5 total times in her entire tennis career. After leaving competitive tennis behind, Dod moved on to field hockey, which she helped pioneer by starting the women’s team from Spital, England. She quickly became the team’s captain, and was known for being the deciding factor in whether or not they succeeded. This rule was also proved true when Dod was selected as a member of the English national team, where she scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Ireland.

Most Impressive Achievement:
Dod is most remembered as a tennis and field hockey player, but she was equally accomplished in golf and archery. In 1904, she won the national championships at golf, and after taking up archery, she secured a silver medal in the 1908 Olympic games.

8. Charlie Ward


Commonly regarded as one of the best all-around athletes in the history of sports, Charlie Ward was a skilled player in football, baseball, and basketball. As a quarterback at Florida State University, he led his team to a National Championship, and along the way he managed to also win the Heisman trophy by one of the biggest margins in history. He was also on the school’s basketball team, and was even said to be an accomplished tennis player. Upon graduating, Ward was faced with a tough decision, as teams in both the NFL and the NBA were expected to draft him. In a surprise move, Ward eventually chose the NBA, where the New York Knicks drafted him. He soon distinguished himself as a reliable point guard and skilled 3-point shooter, even as the NFL continued to knock on his door (according to reports, Ward was courted by the Kansas City Chiefs as a possible backup quarterback for Joe Montana). Nagging injuries eventually led to Ward’s early retirement from professional sports, but his college career alone would be enough to qualify him as one of the most accomplished multi-sport athletes in recent memory.

Most Impressive Achievement:
Ward’s college sports career was so impressive that in addition to being courted by the NFL and drafted by the NBA, he was also drafted by major league baseball teams twice, in 1993 and 1994.  This was not because of any significant accomplishments in baseball—Ward hadn’t even played on his college team—it was just that he had such a good throwing arm that managers always believed they could turn him into a big-league pitcher.

7. C.B. Fry


Englishman Charles Burgess, or C.B., Fry was one of the most accomplished renaissance men of his time: excelling as a teacher, writer, publisher, and politician. Today, though, he is most remembered for his athletic achievements, which saw him become one of Europe’s most famous sportsmen with his uncanny skill at everything from cricket and track and field to soccer, rugby, and gymnastics. Cricket was Fry’s main game, and he was known for having one of the most consistently high averages in both the league and international play. He retired with over 30,000 career runs, which at the time was one of the all time highest totals. In soccer, Fry was also formidable, playing on both the pro side Southampton and the English national team as a defender.

Most Impressive Achievement:

Fry’s successes as a track and field star are perhaps the most convincing proof of his legendary abilities as an all-around athlete. He was best known for his skill in the long jump, and in 1893 he managed to tie the world record with a leap of over 23 1/2 feet. Fry was also an accomplished sprinter, and is known for winning the 100-yard dash during the world’s first international track meet between Oxford and Yale universities.

6. Lionel Conacher


The most famous of Canada’s athletes, Lionel Conacher was a sportsman from the 1920’s. Primarily known as a hockey player, he was also known to compete professionally in football, baseball, lacrosse, boxing and wrestling. He started as one of the earliest stars of Canadian football while playing for the Toronto Argonauts, with whom he won the league championship in 1921. Conacher, who was known as “the Big Train,” was a standout player in his early days, and on one occasion he was said to have rushed for an amazing 215 yards on only eight carries. After traveling to the U.S., Conacher tried to bring pro football to Canada (which was amateur-only), and in 1933 he organized the first ever official league while simultaneously serving as the captain of two teams. By this time he was a professional in as many as four sports including baseball, lacrosse, and wrestling; but it was when he took up hockey that he truly became a star. Hockey was supposedly his weakest sport and the one in which he had the least interest, but Conacher still shined, leading more than one team to a Stanley Cup victory before he retired in the late 30’s.

Most Impressive Achievement:
In addition to his accomplishments as a pro athlete (which include never losing a single match as a pro wrestler), Conacher is also remembered for the sheer volume of sports that he managed to play simultaneously. One famous story from 1920 describes him as having hit the game-winning home run in a baseball game, only to catch a ride across town to play lacrosse, where he quickly scored four goals.

5. Deion Sanders


Famed two-sport star Deion Sanders is perhaps the most high profile of the athletes on this list, and for good reason: not only did he excel at both baseball and football, but he consistently played on quality, championship-caliber teams in both leagues. “Neon Deion” is remembered primarily for playing two sports, but in college he was even more versatile, and ran track in addition to starring on the baseball and football teams. One story describes him as playing a baseball doubleheader, running at a track meet, and then returning to play another baseball game all in the span of a day. After college, Sanders was drafted by the MLB’s New York Yankees and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and decided to play for both. Unlike many athletes that pull off two pro sports careers, Sanders managed to keep competing in both leagues for a surprisingly long period of time, serving as an MLB outfielder and base-stealing expert from 1989 to 1995 (and on and off thereafter), as well as playing as a cornerback and kick returner in the NFL from 1989 to 2001. Along the way, he managed to notch an impressive 53 career interceptions as one of football’s most feared defenders, while also recording 186 career stolen bases in baseball.

Most Impressive Achievement:
There’s an ongoing argument over whether Sanders would have been a better player if he had just concentrated on one sport, but even when dividing his time, his achievements were nothing to scoff at. Not only is he the only man to compete in both the Super Bowl and the World Series, but he’s also the only athlete to ever hit a homerun and score a touchdown in the same week.

4. Jackie Robinson


Jackie Robinson is already an icon for being the first man to break the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947, but what is often forgotten in the process is just how amazing of an athlete he really was. From an early age, he was a sports virtuoso, taking on every game that could be played and competing at a high level in all of them. In high school, Robinson played on the varsity team in multiple sports, and was a letterman in football, baseball, track, and basketball. His career really took off when he began attending UCLA, where he continued to be a standout in multiple sports (ironically, baseball was regarded as his weakest game). After college, he began playing semi-pro football as a member of the Honolulu Bears, and later served as the running back for the Los Angeles Bulldogs in the short-lived Pacific Coast Football League. Robinson finally began playing professional baseball in 1945, when he joined the Kansas City Monarchs, and it was here that he got his shot at Major League Baseball when he was selected by Dodgers manager Branch Rickey to be the first black player in the all-white leagues. As if this wasn’t a big enough accomplishment, Robinson would continue to shine after breaking the color barrier. He earned a reputation for stealing bases, once getting 37 in one season, and won the MVP award in 1949.

Most Impressive Accomplishment:
Robinson’s world-changing move into pro baseball is certainly his most important contribution to sports, but from a purely athletic standpoint, his biggest achievement might have come in college. While at UCLA, he managed to letter in four sports (football, track, baseball, and basketball), a feat that has never been equaled.

3. Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson could easily have become the greatest multi-sport athlete of all time had a hip injury not prematurely ended his sports career, but even in the short time in which he played, he distinguished himself as one of the most formidable sportsman in recent memory. Jackson was a standout player in both football and baseball in his teens, to the point that the New York Yankees drafted him as soon as he graduated high school. He elected to go on to college at Auburn University, where he continued to dominate as a home run hitter and unstoppable running back, and in 1985 he was awarded the Heisman Trophy. He was selected first in the NFL draft, but continued to play baseball as well, simultaneously serving as a running back for the Oakland Raiders (then the L.A. Raiders) and as an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals. He became known as a big time slugger in the MLB, hitting 141 home runs over his eight-year career, while at the same time rushing for over 2,000 career yards in the NFL, including a record-breaking 221 yards in a Monday Night game.

Most Impressive Achievement:
It’s hard to say what Jackson might have accomplished had he not gotten hurt, but many claim he would’ve been one of the all time greats, and he did succeed in becoming the first athlete to ever play in both the NFL Pro Bowl and the MLB all-star game. Amazingly, after retiring from the MLB and the NFL, Jackson even tried his hand at basketball, briefly playing for a semi-pro team in L.A.

2. Jim Brown


Former NFL running back Jim Brown is commonly regarded as a contender for the title of greatest football player of all time, but what is not widely known is that he’s a running contender for the title of greatest lacrosse player of all time, as well. In fact, in his early days at high school, Brown managed to rise to the top of the ranks at nearly every sport he took up, from football and lacrosse to basketball, baseball, and track. He carried most of these interests over to college at Syracuse University, where he continued to build a name for himself as an excellent all-around athlete. In football, he managed to rush for nearly 1,000 yards in only eight games in order to score an amazing per-carry average of 6.2 yards. Meanwhile, in lacrosse he ended his senior season with 43 goals in 10 games, and was listed as a first team All-American.

Most Impressive Achievement:
If Brown’s college career was not amazing enough, his professional career in the NFL was downright legendary. After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1956, Brown proceeded to break every major record in the book, including the record for career rush yards (12,312 yards), touchdowns (106), and all-purpose yards (15,549). Many of Brown’s records have been broken since his retirement in 1965, but he still remains the only NFL running back to have ever averaged more than 100 yards a game for his career.

1. Jim Thorpe


For sheer athletic skill and versatility, early twentieth century multi-sport phenomenon Jim Thorpe simply has no equal. No other athlete since has managed to play so many different sports in so many different roles, and none has managed to do them all so well.  Born in 1888, Thorpe was of Native American descent, and spent most of his early years in Oklahoma before going to school in Pennsylvania, where he was coached by legendary football whiz Pop Warner. It was here that he first began to display his athletic prowess, playing nearly every sport including baseball, lacrosse, track and field, and even ballroom dancing. After college, Thorpe pursued a professional sports career while training for the 1912 Olympic games, which were held in Sweden. He competed in multiple events in track and field, and, thanks to his ability to perform well in any event, easily won gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon. Thorpe used the fame he garnered from the Olympics to charge headlong into professional sports. He joined the New York Giants baseball team, and would later play for both the Brewers and the White Sox. At the same time, he was playing professional football for the Canton Bulldogs, one of the first pro teams in the league that would later become the NFL. Unbelievably, throughout it all Thorpe also played pro basketball as part of a traveling exhibition team made entirely of Native Americans.

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Most Impressive Achievement:
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Thorpe is not the number of different sports he played, but his versatility within those individual competitions. Thorpe could always play on both sides of the ball, particularly in football, where he served as his team’s running back, defensive back, punter, and kicker. One legendary story tells of his college team defeating Harvard 18 to 15 in a game in which Thorpe scored every one of his side’s points. Yet another tells of how when he had a 95-yard touchdown revoked because of a penalty, Thorpe simply shook it off and scored a 97-yard touchdown on the very next play.


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70 Comments

  1. How does Dave Winfield not make the list? He starred in basketball and baseball for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Following college, Winfield was drafted by four teams in three different sports. The San Diego Padres selected him as an outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the MLB draft and both the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and the Utah Stars (ABA) drafted him.[3][4] And even though he never played college football, the Minnesota Vikings selected Winfield in the 17th round of the NFL draft.

    • Winfield is definitely a great addition. I wish I had a good excuse for him not being on the list, but the truth is I just forgot about him. The same could probably be said for Babe Didrickson, as well.

  2. Awesome post, I never knew that about Conacher! I know Gordie howe played Semi-pro baseball in the off season and made more than he did playing pro hockey!

    I also heard that King Klancy is the only player who played every position in hockey…IN ONE GAME

  3. If memory serves, Charlie Ward also carried a ridiculously high Grade Point Average while at FSU. Graduated with a 3.9 or 4.0 I believe.

    • Babe Didrickson Zaharias should definitely be Number 1. Track and Field Gold Medalist at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Professional golfer (she was one of the founding members of the LPGA) and its my understanding that she could throw a Baseball 300 feet which is mind blowing !!

  4. Jim Thorpe was an amazing, versatile athlete. if he was alive today he'd be a multimillionaire, the way we idolize athletes. He died broke, though, because pro sports didn't pay much when he played. One of the stories about him is that he was so tough his baseball manager forbade any of the other players to wrestle with him, because even when he was just horsing around he would injure them. He also was one of the first athletes to use visualization — on the boat over to Sweden for the Olympics he spent much of his time with his eyes closed in a deck chair. When a journalist asked what he was doing, he said, "Practicing." He visualized himself winning every event, and it came true.

    • Another sad thing about Jim Thorpe was the IOC stripping him of his Olympic Gold medals from the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm, Sweden because of his professional status in playing Baseball for the old New York Giants, but also his penchant for over indulging in alcohol. It was said that on the ocean liner that carried our Olympic team to the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe was well beyond imbibing himself with drink on a daily basis.

    • Can't really argue with you there. I did my best to include a few from Canada and the U.K. (Lionel Conacher, C.B. Fry), but I'm from the U.S, so most of the athletes I'm familiar with are American. Who are some people that you think deserve to be included?

      • Jaroslav Drobny – The guy was a member of the Czechoslovak Ice hockey World Champion team in 1947 before he won Wimbledon in 1954. Tough to beat that resume.

  5. CJ Phillips on

    Only man to be MVP in two professional sports? Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA and also the pro volleyball league IVA. Basketball the second most popular (participation) sport in the world and volleyball No. 3. What are the odds against an individual achieving such? His NBA stats are hard to believe (and don't give me that BS that he was taller than everyone else because that just shows people's ignorance to the facts)… Also if that was the case Yao Ming would be a legend by now. Wilt was also offered a contract to play in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilt also won the Big 7 high jump while in college. He could bench press 500 pounds! He was to fight Muhammad Ali. The legend….not the myth…of Wilt would rank him No. 1

  6. I think it's only fair to put Babe Didrikson Zaharias on this list! She was an incredible athlete that excelled in golf, basketball, many track and field events, tennis, baseball, and many other sports. She is a classic example of a Multi-sport athlete.

  7. Someone Else on

    Arguments over whether these are the best multi-sport athletes or the best American multi-sport athletes are ridiculous. Not one of them is a multi-sport athlete, even though they most definitely excelled at multiple sports, a multi-sport athlete is completely different as multi-sport is itself a group of sports held as one event.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multisport

    Ignorance is Evil.

  8. I think itâ??s only fair to put Babe Didrikson Zaharias on this list! She was an incredible athlete that excelled in golf, basketball, many track and field events, tennis, baseball, and many other sports. She is a classic example of a Multi-sport athlete.

  9. One that usually gets overlooked on lists like these is Otto Graham. He went to college on a basketball scholarship and wound up as a Heisman finalist in 1943. He is the only American athlete to win championships in two sports in the same year – he was a member of the 1946 Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) in the NBL (precursor to the NBA) and 1946 Cleveland Browns of the AAFC. He then focused on football and went to ten consecutive championship games in the AAFC and NFL, winning seven times.

  10. Some may not consider auto racing to be a real sport, but try denying the success of Luc Alphand.

    During the 1990s, he competed on the world cup skiing tour. Four times he won the title in individual events, and the was the overall world champion in 1997.

    After he quit skiing, he took up auto racing and in the 2000s, raced in GT endurance racing as well as 24 Heures Du Mans (24 Hours of Le Mans) where he once finished in the top 10. He also competed in rallying and was the overall champion in the Dakar Rally of 2006, the last time it was held in Africa.

  11. Lionel Conacher most famous canadian athlete? ever heard of steve nash, donavon bailey or mario lemieux? tim horton or johnny bower? no, eh? need i mention wayne gretzky? do your homework, but good list for the subject.

  12. Lou Gehrig (in college). Excellent football player and baseball player.

    Sheila Taormina – Four Olympics in a row in multiple sports: swimming, triathlon, modern pentathlon (which required learning to shoot, ride horses and fence – and then qualify and compete against competitors who had spent their lives doing it!) Amazing!

    So – if we consider pentathlon – and if war is a sport, General George Patton must also be on the list. He was in the first Olympic pentathlon (and should have won it.)

  13. How about Dave winfield???? he is a MLB hall of famer, who was drafted into the NFL as well as playing serious college basketball (baseball was most likely the sport he was least good at)

    Tom glavine also will be a hall of famer, and he was drafted into the NHL

  14. My dad had four professional careers. 1) Catcher, Boston Redsox 1949-1960. 2)Professional Bowler, Sammy White’s Brighton Bowl (Boston Ma). 3) Signed with the Minneapolis Lakers – Basketball 1950, and All American UW Basketball Hall of Fame. Also played exhibition games with the Harlem Globetrotter’s off season from baseball. 4) Professional Golfer – Princeville Hawaii

    That’s my daddy!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammy_White_%28baseball%29

  15. I agree with a previous poster. I definitely think that Babe Didrikson Zaharias should be on the list somewhere. I think an argument could be made that she was the greatest overall female athlete of the first half of the twentieth century. Jim Thorpe is the overall best male athlete of the first half of the twentieth century and Babe Didrikson Zaharias the best female. At least that is my opinion.

  16. Chuck Connors and Danny Ainge deserve to be here. Two of the big 3 pro sports, along with Bo and Deion. I like Wilt ok, but volleyball? There’s a reason it’s a popular participation game, almost anyone can play it. Love Jim Brown, top 10 NFL ever, but lacrosse? Sam White (from a previous comment) seems to fit in. Anyone else ever play 2 of the big 3 pro sports? Or maybe we can get curling and ping-pong on the next list.

  17. Tony Gwynn was a 2 sport standout as well. Baseball and basketball. Not sure if he was drafted by any NBA teams. If he was, then he deserves to be on this list. If he wasn’t, then he does not. Great man, though.

    Heard somewhere once that Dave Winfield was drafted into the NHL, but can’t find any record. Maybe a minor league?

  18. Missing from the list is Ted Williams who, along with Jim Brown (football, lacrosse) is the only other member of two sports’ Halls of Fame (baseball, fishing).

    • Excellent point Lou and Kudos to you. I am a lifetime Boston Red Sox fan, unfortunately he retired 2 years before I was born, but my father loves to rub it in to me as to how perfect Ted Williams’ swing was when he would go to Fenway Park when he was a teenager. Also remember that he was a War Hero twice (WWII and the Korean War). His commanding officer was none other then Senator and astronaut John Glenn and Glenn was amazingly humbled as he idolized Ted. Two other famous people who looked up to Ted was actor John Wayne and golfing legend Ben Hogan. Hogan used the principles of Ted’s swing and used them to perfect his Golf swing. You can find it on your computer. Its very interesting. It must of worked. After all, look at Ben Hogan’s stats in Golf.

      • I wanted to make my reply succinct, but since you responded (thank you!) I’ll have to tell you there’s much more “greatness” about “The Kid” than what I posted. Some context: I am a bit older than you and actually got to see Williams play at Fenway and met him several times and got his autograph at fan events (e.g. the Sportmans Show at the old BU Armory where he put on a fly casting exhibition that was jaw-droppingly amazing).

        I know this is a question about “multi-sport” athletes but not only is fishing a sport, but so is…

        ….flying…

        Did you know that Ted was a *fantastic* pilot during WWII and Korea and was John Glenn’s wing man during that second conflict? Glenn praised him as one of the best pilots he had ever flown with, which is extremely high praise. So, to best hitter and fisherman, add “pilot”.

        Ted Williams was John Wayne brought to real life. See here to understand => http://is.gd/91twJr

        • Hello Lou and Thank You for the added information. You met Ted and I am envious. How was he as a personable guy. I heard that he was somewhat distant and aloof, but to me, Ted will always be the biggest “What If” in baseball history. What if he had not lost 5 years of baseball because of fighting for his country. Another one was Bob Feller who lost 4 years to active duty in WWII. I have been to Fenway Park many times when I was a teenager and into my 20’s when you could find tickets. Today, forget it. You either have to know somebody high up or pay a month’s salary from a scalper to get in there. Thank God for TV and again, Thanks for the info.

        • Ted had just given this demonstration of casting by flicking a fly into the center of an (approximately) 4 inch diameter plastic floating ring from about 30 yards away. Over and over he hit dead center. If I hadn’t seen it, I would never have believed it. His hand-eye coordination was off_the_charts. While I agree that Jim Thorpe was the greatest athlete of modern times, when you get more granular about what a great athlete really *is*, Ted must rank right up there. His mental focus and drive was unreal and a cause of both his greatest accomplishments and lifelong personal failings and demons.

          After the demo, about 500 of us 10 year olds surged forward with scraps of paper outstretched in supplicating fingers praying that our G-d would sign these offerings. Note here that Williams was not only John Wayne, but one of the most charismatic humans to ever walk the earth. Movie-star handsome, extremely intelligent (did you know he was Manager of the Year for the Senators? Or that he finished first in his class at Amherst during flight training [with Pesky] despite having barely made it out of high school?) I would classify him as way above such luminaries as Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Springsteen, Clinton or Lennon/McCartney in this category. As you’re reading this last sentence I’m sure you’re thinking that I’ve lapsed into hagiography, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that Williams had a personal aura which attracted people like bees to honey.

          Anyhow, we surged around the Great One and I (through a ton of pushing and shoving) got his last signature before he gruffly barked, “OK, that’s it! I’m done!” and stalked off. I didn’t blame him one bit…he was engulfed by the adoring crowd and it had been like this for almost his whole life after high school. No wonder he sought the solitude of fishing to escape his devoted minions.

          The best part of this episode is that I took the signature home and put it on my desk and then went out to play baseball with my friends and brag about my conquest. When I returned later, the scrap of paper was gone and I went into a frenzy. Quote from my mother: “Oh, I thought that scrap of paper was garbage, so when I cleaned your room I threw it out”. Frantic sifting through our garbage cans yielded nothing and i learned a great lesson that day about the Ephemera of the G-ds.

          P.S. you’re correct about the lost 5 years. Two important stats: he holds the all time record for OBP (.482) of *any player*. Just think about that stat for a second and let it sink in. He was on base 50% of the time!!! In major league play against the best of the best! Even more amazing was his batting average (leading the league) at age 40. Yes, age 40. Look up what it was and then decide if I am being too much of a Ted FanBoy in my earlier raves.

  19. Just for fun, look up the actor Chuck Connors (The Rifleman). He was both a professional Basketball player and Professional Baseball Player

    • Chuck Conners trivia: he was the player who shattered the backboard during warmups for the first Celtic game ever, which delayed its start. I believe Connors played for Brooklyn as well. AFAIK, he joins Gene Conley (pitcher) as the other Celt that also played MLB. In turn, Conley holds the dubious distinction of being the only MLB player ever to get *so* drunk with his teammate (and first Red Sox African American player) Elijah “Pumpsie” Green that they left the team to board a plane to Israel in the middle of the season. Strange, but true. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

      As for the fabulous Sammy White mentioned above by his daughter – she had reason to be very proud and he was as famous after his playing days for his great bowladrome (where I used to go) as he was for his athletic prowess. She forgot to mention the infamous quadruple gangland slaying there, which had Boston buzzing for a long time. See here => http://is.gd/xtmpfs

      • Hello Lou (again), I will have to look up the Chuck Connors thing, but breaking the backboard, I had no idea about and find it quite humorous. I used to collect baseball cards and had quite a collection. I did have a “Pumpsie” Green Baseball card a few years ago. Its sad that the Red Sox were the last team to draft an Afro-American player albeit when there where only 16 teams and from what I understand, he was just basically a utility player and didn’t see much action. But, I did read a quote of his and laughed my head off. He once said that “I am going to write a book about my name “Pumpsie” and sell it for a dollar a piece and I will become a millionaire for everytime that I have been asked as to why my name is “Pumpsie”. And the anecdote about flying to Israel, ironically I read about just a couple of months ago. Are you from the Boston area. My Dad was born in Cambridge, My Mom was born in Woburn and I was born in Winchester.

        • Mr. Yawkey was a Southerner and the (alleged) dark side of his legacy was his aversion to minorities and hiring of less-than-enlightened employees such as Pinkie Higgins (manager). A bit ironic since this scion to an industrialist empire came not as a result of the meritocracy, but because he was fortunate to have been adopted by the owner of the Detroit Tigers, who was the initial source of his vast holdings. That he should discriminate by virtue of birth is both sad and illustrative of the (alleged) prejudices of the times. [Note: I’m using the word “alleged” because this is a public forum, and it’s not in keeping with the Christmas spirit to cast aspersions on those who are not around to answer for their “alleged” transgressions – Mr. Yawkey also did a lot of very charitable things that should not be forgotten. Can you say, “Jimmy Fund”?)

        • Hi Lou. I have just read your latest update on “The Kid” and about his fly fishing abilities, I will have to show that to my older brother as he is an avid outdoorsman with fishing and hunting, I honestly don’t know anything about it, but the accuracy portion of his fishing skills will interest him. Yes, I am familiar with the fact the Ted was the manager for the old Wahington Senators and in fact when my father took me to my first Red Sox game in the summer of 1970 (I was only 8) I wanted to see the Senator player Frank Howard who was a humongous man and could hit the ball off of the cover. My Dad pointed out the older looking man in the Senators uniform and said that was the legendary Ted Williams, so yes I did see him, but of course did not see him play. The .483 OBP I am familiar with and that is one record that is so overlooked and your right, he was on base 50% of the time. Not to change the subject but also pertaining to the Red Sox when I am asked as to who was the most underrated and overlooked baseball player in history in my opinion. I don’t hesitate and say Carl Yastrzmeski. First AL player with 400 homers and 3000 hits. 2nd all time in games played, 2nd all time in At Bats. Literally put the Red Sox into the 1967 World Series single handed. When the Sox, Twins, White Sox and I believe the Tigers, were in a deadlock for winning the pennant during the last weekend of that season. Yaz went 12 for 23 (.523 BA) and of those 12 hits, 5 of them were home runs. They went on to face the St. Louis Cardinals and the terrifying Bob Gibson. Of course the Red Sox lost in 7 games, but what did Yaz do ? He hit 3 home runs off of Gibson in that series. Why he is constantly omitted from all of these greatest baseball player lists is beyond me. If you have ever seen the “Baseball” documentary by Ken Burns, watch the short 5-10 minute clip on Yaz. Ted Williams was quoted, as saying that “Yaz was the greatest Baseball Player in history in September of 1967”. I have no argument with that.

        • Hi Lou, how are you. I am getting an education from you and I appreciate it. I was just on the Wikipedia and looked up Tom Yawkey. I was always curious as to how he got his money and the matter of the fact is that he was just plainly born into it. His Grandfather was a lumber and iron magnate and was going to purchase the Detroit Tigers (Where Tom was born). But as the deal was going through, he suddenly died and left $40 million to his nephew. The nephew adopted Tom when he was in his infancy and he would be inheriting the $40 million with the death of his adopted father (uncle), He died when Tom was 16, however the will stipulated that Tom could not get his hands on it until he turned 30. An amazing fact that I learned was that Tom was a student at Yale University and one of his classmates was the legendary Baseball player Eddie Collins who would eventually be GM for the Sox. So 4 days after Tom’s 30th birthday, he bought the Sox for $1.2 million and yes, you are absolutely right about Mr. & Mrs Yawkey being charitable and excellent philanthropists. Also, in the Wikipedia about Tom, there is mention to another great player who has been somewhat forgotten, and being a black man, Reggie Smith.

        • Three things about Yaz that will forever underrate him:

          1.) Followed Williams – everything is relative and Yaz could not and cannot live up to the legend of Ted. Not Yaz’ fault and I suspect, on a personal level, that he could care less about this.

          2.) DH rule – not Yaz’ fault, but many of his stats were inflated by 10 years under the DH. Would he have gotten 3000 hits and played 23 years without the DH? You tell me.

          3.) Longevity – see above #2 for the reason behind his ability to accumulate all-world stats. Williams, by contrast, played 21 years and missed 5 (!) due to the war. (Note: Williams is also one of the few MLB players to have played in four different decades.)

          No question Yaz was a better *overall* player than Williams. Ted was an indifferent left fielder at best while Yaz was a 7 times Gold Glover. I saw Yaz play left at Fenway many times, and no one even cames/comes close to his ability to deke out runners while pretending a high Green Monster hit was instead going into the net. 1967 – no argument there, either. Best season ever…but that was just one year and he had many lean years. From 1969 to 1973 he had just one .300 season. One! Ted’s lifetime average was .344. What was Yaz’? Underrated?

          We’re diverging from the original question, so here’s two more for your consideration:

          -“Bullet” Bob Hayes (Olympian/NFL)
          -Bill Russel – talk about “underrated”! The greatest winner in sports except for Yogi and Ruth.

        • Again, your concise statistics and insight have me compelled and I am both learning and realizing from your words. The DH is to me a sorry addition to the game. Again, if you should happen upon “Baseball” by Ken Burns and watch the Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee talk about the last time he ever went to bat before the implication of the DH rule. Its hilarious. I went on to the Wikipedia about Tom Yawkey and how he came into his money. The simple matter of the fact was he was born into it. He was born Tom Austin and his grandfather was a lumber and iron magnate. He was in process of purchasing the Detroit Tigers (Tom was born in Detroit), but died suddenly in 1903 and left a $40 million inheritance to his nephew. His nephews last name was Yawkey, he adopted Tom when he was just an infant and the $40 million would eventually pass on to Tom. His adoptive father died when Tom was 16 but the stipulation oof the will was he was not allowed access to it until he turned 30. He went to Yale University and was classmates with the legendary Baseball player Eddie Collins as they became lifelong friends and became GM under Tom. 4 days after his 30th birthday, he bought the Red Sox for $1.2 million. And you are absolutely correct about Mr. & Mrs. Yawkey with their charity and philanthropy. You mentioned that Ted Williams played in four decades (1939-1960) but did you know that Ted Williams is the only player in Baseball History to have stolen a base in four different decades as well? Just Food for thought. I will look up Bob Hayes as I know he was an Olympic Gold medalist in the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 100 meter dash (I was an honorable mention All-American in Track and Field, my senior year in high school and won the 1980 New Hampshire High School State Decathlon), and also he played running back for the Dallas Cowboys. And Bill Russell ? I know about his legendary play forr the Celtics, but I will be interested as to what other sport he excelled at. Thank You, Lou for the Information and insight.

        • Interesting and insightful Lou and Thank You. I just read on the Wikipedia about the life of Tom Yawkey and its very interesting. I always wondered as to how he became a wealthy man, and basically he was born into money and was born in Detroit. His birth name was actually Tom Austin, but read about it, its interesting. Bob Hayes, I am familiar with as he won the Gold Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 100 meter dash and played for the Dallas Cowboys. Bill Russell ? I know about his legendary career with the Celtics, But I will be interested as to what other sport he excelled in. By the way, you had mentioned that Ted Williams played in 4 different decades (1939-1960), but did you know that he is the only player in Baseball History to have stolen a base in 4 different decades as well ? Look it up, its a curious record to have on his resume.

        • Bill Russell (from Wikipedia):

          “Besides basketball, Russell represented USF in track and field events. He competed in the 440 yard (402 m) race, which he could complete in 49.6 seconds.[15] He also participated in the high jump; Track & Field News ranked him as the seventh-best high jumper in the world in 1956. That year, Russell won high jump titles at the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet, and the West Coast Relays. One of his highest jumps occurred at the West Coast Relays, where he achieved a mark of 6 feet 9¼ inches.”

          I did know about Ted stealing bases in four different decade. What makes that even more interesting is that he had a total of 24 stolen bases in 19 years. Do the math for the average per year.

          If you like “stumpers” here you go:

          1.) Red Sox pitcher with the highest lifetime winning percentage against the Yankees (no one ever gets this)

          2.) Only major league baseball player ever to be ejected from a game without playing in one for his entire MLB career. (Hint: this player went on to be only one of three people to be in the Hall of Fame as both player and coach! Second hint: what’s the subject of this thread?)

          3.) Only MLB player ever to pinch hit for Ted Williams (this one is easy to find via Google)

        • Geez Lou, You’re becoming a mentor with me and all of this Baseball trivia which I love to research. I have written down the 3 trivia questions that you have presented to me. (I don’t have a printer, unfortunately). I have nothing to do today so I will dig in on these questions. I will only guess with No.1 (the Red Sox Pitcher with the highest winning pct. against the Yankees), the first one that comes to mind is Lefty Grove, but I am probably wrong. Luis Tiant also crossed my mind, but I will try to find the answer to these questions. I have two for you if you don’t mind me telling you and see if you know the answer. 1). Who is the only pitcher in Baseball history to have won more than 250 games and never given up a Grand Slam Home Run and 2). I know that you will get this one. In the 1934 All-Star game, what five Hall Of Fame Batters did Carl Hubbell strikeout in succession. Hint : 3 of them were at one time in their careers, players for the Red Sox.

    • Wow, those are tough questions! Using a bit of deductive reasoning, I figure that the only was a pitcher could win 250 games is if he had a lot of support when pitching. The only pitcher, in fact a famous “pitch-man” for a supportive brand would be none other than the Jockey underwear spokesperson, Handsome Jim Palmer of those Orioles. He couldn’t have done it without those classic low-rises. As for the all-star strike outs in ’34…if they were Red Sox or former or future Crimson Hosers, it had to be the Washington Senator’s owner’s son-in-law and player-manager of the BoSox Joe Cronin, Double-XX, and Simmons. To make the strike outs truly historic, the other two had to be the best players of that era…and that would be Ruth and Gehrig.

      How’d I do?

      As for your guesses, Grove is an excellent and logical choice but the real answer is a pitcher who would be the last person on earth you’d expect to hold that record. I’ll give you a huge hint…we’ve already discussed this particular player somewhere in this thread. It’s not El Tiante.

      • Hello Lou, how are you ? Well, you guessed right on the nose. Jim Palmer is the only 250 game winner without ever giving up a grand slam home run. And the Carl Hubbell question I had no doubt that you would get that one right on. As far as the questions that you posed to me, I think that I have the answer. There is a Website that I frequent called Ask.com I use it quite frequently when I am in a “jam”. If you haven’t been on it, test it. You will be amazed. Red Sox pitcher with the best record against the Yankees, I actually came up with two of them. I want to say Bill Lee who had an 11-1 record against them and Babe Ruth when he was with the Red Sox with a 17-5 record. The pinch hitter for Ted Williams I searched everywhere for and did find it. His name was Carroll Hardy ?? (Is that right?). But another thing that I read. He also pinch hit for Yaz and for Roger Maris. And third, the player to be ejected in a game without ever playing in one, I will take 3 guesses. 1). Connie Mack, 2). Sparky Anderson or 3). Earl Weaver. That’s the best that I could do on that one. One last thing and this will astound you as to where these trivia fanatics get there info. I was reading an article on Pedro Martinez who has now retired. Many pitchers throughout history have had 300+ strikeouts in a season. But this writer said that Pedro is the only pitcher in Major League History to have 300+ strikeouts and being shorter than 6′ tall (Pedro is 5’11”). I had to laugh at that one.

        • Wow! Very, very impressive. No one *ever* guesses Babe Ruth because 1.) He’s known as a Yankee and 2.) He’s known as a great hitter. In fact, he was a great pitcher too, which is often overlooked….but not by you. The Spaceman doesn’t qualify because of this lack of total decisions, but that’s a good guess as well. So the answer is none other than Babe Ruth.

          Carroll Hardy is also correct and you’ve discovered that he he had other asterisks of note in his trivia file. If you love Yaz, Carroll Hardy, trivia and the Sox of the 60’s check up on Roman Mejias. AFAIK, he’s the only MLB player to catch a ball while laying down in the outfield (he had slipped going for the ball), though he is known as the Home Run King of the Astros and was the man who Sox batting champ Pete Runnels was traded for.

          As for that impossible question: I’m going to have to give you more hints, and this time you’ll figure it out. Here goes. There are four multi-sport MLB Boston athletes. Chuck Conners (see above), Danny Ainge (Blue Jays, Celts), Gene Conley (see above) and the person who is the answer to this question. Final hint, which will give it away. This former MLB player, who not only one of three people is in the Hall of Fame as a player *and* a coach also has the distinction of having his retired number hanging in the rafters in the TD North Garden! That should do it for you….good luck.

          Speaking of Pedro being vertically challenged, here’s yet another stumper that cannot be found on Google: who is the only Celtic first round draft choice under six feet?

          Have fun.

  20. I can’t believe that nobody has mentioned a man by the name of Primetime. You know that famous two sport athlete (NFL Hall of Famer and MLB All Star) Deion Sanders.

  21. You are all wrong. Gene Conley, of Richland Washington, is the only person to win WORLD championships in two of the four major American sports; one with the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series and three Boston Celtics world championships from 1959-61. No one else can claim 2 WORLD titles in 2 different sports!

  22. Clara Hughes….only woman to win an olympic medal in summer AND winter games! How is she not on the list? Speed skater and Cyclist, c’mon MAN.

  23. Gene Conley is the only athlete with championship rings for the World Series (Milwaukee Braves) and NBA–3 with Celtics.

    And Deborah White’s dad Sam played with Jackie Jensen who played in the Rose Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, World Series and MLB All-Star game.

  24. Peter Boucher on

    Willie Davenport. Olympic Gold Medalist in the 110 Meter High Hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Games. And part of the 4-man Bobsled team in the 1980 Winter Olympics at the Lake Placid, N.Y. Games

  25. HI I agree with the others
    This list need to be updated
    Where’s Dave Winfield, Bob Hayes, Babe Didrickson Zaharias
    They should be added!!!

    • Peter Boucher on

      @ ISMAEL NUNEZ You have made an excellent point by mentioning Mildred “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias and good for you. That is a tremendous oversight. A 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Excelled as a Basketball Player, One of the founders of the LPGA (and won a few tournaments herself). She was even being sought after by Major League Baseball scouts as she was capable of throwing a Baseball over 300+ feet. And of course Bob Hayes, 1964 Gold Medalist at the Tokyo Olympics and world record holder in the 100 meter dash. And an outstanding running back for the Dallas Cowboys.

  26. Ollie Matson has the credentials:

    All-American in football at University of San Francisco
    All-Pro in NFL with a 14-year career
    College Hall of Fame
    NFL Hall of Fame

    Olympic medalist in track and field
    Two Olympic medals at Helsinki, 1952: Bronze in 400 m dash; silver in 4×400 relay.

  27. Louis Matthew on

    Only problem with this list is OTTO GRAHAM IS MISSING! He won a championship in two different sports in THE SAME YEAR! 1946 (NBL- with Chuck Connors) Rochester Royals and (AAFC) Cleveland Browns. He went to the AAFC and NFL championship every year he played– 10 CONSECUTIVE YEARS– and won 7. That’s 8 Championships. Who on this list has come close to that???

  28. Ice Hockey Systems Inc. on

    I loved this article because so many kids are being forced to choose a sport and specialize at such a young age. The more evidence we can gather that shows multi-sport athletes have a better path of development the better it will be for our kids. Great stuff, thanks for the article!

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