This is a great time for sports fans, especially here in Tampa Bay. We are still swimming in the celebration of the Lighting winning the Stanley Cup in hockey. Now we have our Tampa Bay Rays in the midst of the American League Division series against the hated Yankees and the Bucs off to a 3-1 start in the NFL. Rounding it out are the Tampa Bay Rowdies looking to win the USL soccer championship. How cool is that?
Over the years in sports we have had many two sport athletes that did well in both. We can all the way back to the early years and Jim Thorpe, the Olympic champion who played MLB with a couple of teams and also was part of the beginnings of the NFL as both a player and GM. In the 50’s and 60’s we had several players, Chuck Connors (more on him later), Bill Sharman, Gene Conley, Dave Debusschre and Danny Ainge who played MLB and also played basketball in the NBA. Then we came to the 80’s and 90’s and had pleasure of enjoying Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan on both the diamond and gridiron.
Now lets take a look at players who were excellent in both but chose only one and wonder, what if??
What if Dan Marino had chosen baseball over football. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 1979 draft. Marino had stats that made baseball scouts drool, going 23-0 on the mound and hitting over .500 at the plate in his high school senior. The Royals offered a hefty bonus, but he decided to try his luck at his other love, football, in college. We will never know what he might have been in baseball, but in football the NFL quickly found out.
What if Tom Glavine had chosen the NHL over MLB instead? In June 1984, just four days after being selected by the Atlanta Braves in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft, Glavine was taken 69th overall by the L.A. Kings in the NHL Entry Draft. He was drafted ahead of players like Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull. Glavine, who had scored 44 goals and 85 points in 23 games in his final season of high school hockey, The HOF’er signed with the Braves instead and today resides in MLB’s Hall of Fame.
What if Dave Winfield had decided the NBA or NFL was more his style? In 1973 Winfield was drafted by four pro sports teams in three different sports. According to scouts from both the NBA and NFL Winfield was so natural as an athlete he would have been a star in any of them. In 1973 the San Diego Padres took him in the first round (fourth overall), the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) took him as a power forward in the fifth round, the Utah Stars (ABA) took him in the fourth round and as a wide receiver, the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the 17th round. But baseball was his real love and the rest is history
What if John Elway had become a Yankee rather than a Bronco? Elway was drafted ahead of future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn by the New York Yankees in the second round in 1981and received a higher bonus than No. 1 overall pick Mike Moore in 1981. He played just one season for Class A Oneonta, batting .318/.432/.464 with 10 home runs, but leveraged his potential baseball career to engineer a trade from the Colts who had drafted him, to the Broncos and his baseball career came to an end.
What if John Lynch had chosen Miami and baseball over Tampa Bay and football? He was drafted by the Marlins in the second round of the 1992 draft as a hard throwing 98 mph pitcher. The future Pro Bowl safety for the Bucs and now the 49ers general manager threw the first pitch in the organization’s history as a member of the Class A Erie Sailors in 1992. He spent two years in the minors at the A and Double A level before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft. So much for pitching for the Marlins.
Speaking of the Bucs, here is one final one.
He was one of the best high school catching prospects in the entire country. He starred at Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., and was an 8th-round pick of the Montreal Expos in the 1995 MLB Draft. Former Expos general manager Kevin Malone believed he could have been an all-time great behind the plate. He could hit with power, was solid defensively and had a rocket arm. But he decided to go to college and go with football and was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. His name is Tom Brady………….What if??
One final note regarding former Brooklyn Dodger, Chicago Cub and Boston Celtic Chuck Connors………He would become the first professional athlete to star in his own TV series, when he headlined “The Rifleman”, one of TV’s classic westerns, from 1958 to 1963 on ABC.
I hope you enjoyed this segment of “Art’s World” as I did researching it and putting it together. There were many more athletes I could have added, but we’ll save them for another time. Have a great week, stay healthy, stay safe and always think positive.
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN