Spring is in the air, and that means college baseball—especially at Stanford, where the second-ranked Cardinal is aiming for its seventh CWS appearance in the past 15 years.
But football made some headlines last week, as Andrew Luck dazzled at Stanford football’s Pro Day, and Stanford alum John Elway engineered the blockbuster signing of Peyton Manning.
But did you know that Elway also starred in baseball on The Farm?
While the great Luck (pictured in a photo op with the Cardinal's ace pitcher Mark Appel) has not played baseball for Stanford, many other Cardinal football stars have played baseball at Sunken Diamond. Turn the page for the first in a series profiling some of Stanford’s greatest football-baseball athletes.
Two-time Super Bowl champ and Hall of Famer John Elway was a stellar QB at Granada Hills High School in California. He also led Granada Hills to the Los Angeles city baseball title in 1979 over Crenshaw High School, which featured Darryl Strawberry.
At Stanford, Elway set numerous passing records, some of which remain intact despite the amazing career of Andrew Luck. The 1982 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Elway still ranks among the Cardinal's top QBs in nearly a dozen statisticial categories.
Elway was also a star outfielder for the Cardinal. In 1981, he hit .361 with nine home runs and a team-leading 41 RBI.
He was drafted by the Yankees in 1981 and played two summers in the Bronx Bombers’ farm system, batting .318 in 1982 for the Yanks' Single-A team in Oneonta.
Of course, he ended up choosing the NFL, and did just fine there.
John Lynch won a Super Bowl ring with the Bucanneers, was a nine-time All-Pro safety for the Bucs and Broncos, and may soon be enshrined in Canton.
He had started his Stanford football career as a QB under coach Bill Walsh before being moved to DB. In his only full season on defense in 1992, he was second-team All-American and led Stanford to a Blockbuster Bowl win over Penn State.
Lynch also pitched and DH’ed for the Cardinal baseball team that appeared in the 1990 College World Series. In his best hitting season at Sunken Diamond in 1992, he had five homers and 26 RBI in 129 ABs.
He was a second-round pick of the Marlins in 1992 and pitched 38 minor league innings during two summers before deciding to focus on football. Many NFL running backs, tight ends and receivers wish he had stuck with pitching instead.
ESPN's college football analyst Rod Gilmore starred in football and baseball at Skyline HS in Oakland, CA.
Recruited for both sports by Stanford, Gilmore was a three-year letterman for the Cardinal at CB. He also played 2B for the 1979 Stanford baseball team.
These days, Gilmore can be seen on ESPN, commentating on college football on weeknights and Saturdays from August into January. He sure doesn't look old enough to have played college football and baseball over 30 years ago.
Toby Gerhart finished second to Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman Trophy race ever in 2009.
More importantly, Gerhart personified the Cardinal’s return to national football prominence as he led the power running game installed by coach Jim Harbaugh that helped Stanford turn around from 1-11 in 2006 to back-to-back BCS bowls in 2010 and 2011. He totaled 3,522 career rushing yards and holds the all-time Stanford record of 44 TDs.
On the baseball diamond, Gerhart played left field on Stanford’s 2008 CWS team, the last time that the Cardinal visited Omaha. He homered in the Cardinal's CWS victory over Florida State.
In 2009, Gerhart hit .288 with seven HRs and 36 RBI in 198 at-bats. He committed only one fielding error in his three seasons at Sunken Diamond.
Gerhart now backs up Adrian Peterson for the Minnesota Vikings. He injured his MCL in the Vikings' 2011 season finale, but should be ready for the 2012 season.
Tyler Gaffney is one of many capable ballcarriers in coach David Shaw’s loaded backfield. The junior from San Diego averaged a gaudy 6.1 yards per carry in 2011 and scored eight total touchdowns.
Gaffney is a two-time honorable mention All-Conference left fielder for the Cardinal nine. A proven hitter, Gaffney batted .328 in 2010 and .327 in 2011, and so far in 2012 is batting .316, with a flawless 1.000 career fielding percentage in the outfield.
Gaffney is one of many stars on the 2012 Stanford baseball team, which may be coach Mark Marquess’s strongest in years. A return to Omaha after a four-year absence could well happen.
Some think Gaffney may pass up his final year of football after he is selected in the upcoming baseball draft. Shaw hopes not.