Despite the incredibly high number of intelligent athletes, many people still believe that those who play sports are invariably moronic. If you point out a smart person in sports to such people, they write them off as a fluke, considering them to be part of a minute minority.
Having long known this belief to be an incorrect and foolish stereotype (and being quite annoyed by it), some time ago I began compiling lists of every intellectual I could find that had played professional sports.
I have found such people from way back in sports history all the way up to today. The lists include future and current Hall of Famers, All-Stars, postseason heroes, stars of today, upcoming players still in the minor leagues, and many more.
A great deal of them attended prestigious schools (both in college and before). Others tackled particularly difficult majors (physics anyone?). Many were honor students and Academic All-Americans. More than a few were members of the National Honor Society.
Several can boast grade point averages which approach or even exceed the exalted 4.0. A myriad of players count reading among their favorite hobbies, and they read books you would more expect a rocket scientist to peruse.
There are those who want to be physicians, and they definitely have the smarts to achieve that goal. There are many more expert mathematicians and aspiring scientists than most would expect to find in sports. Several excelled on the infamous SAT.
Of course, numerous athletes combine multiple of these traits.
The lists I have put together number in the hundreds and can never really be finished as I am constantly finding new additions. Had I began composing these records sooner, they would already contain a plethora of additional information.
In the past, when I heard of a cerebral athlete, I was duly impressed, but I made the great mistake of not writing the information down or simply making note of the person’s name but not what it was about them that warranted their inclusion on these lists.
Before I let you get to the slide show, I must stress that the following men are only a small few of the people on my lists that are current Major League Baseball players. There are many, many others both in their sport and others that belong here.
However, I have narrowed down the list by quite a bit for the sake of brevity.
This Athletics reliever graduated from Yale where he was a double major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. About his fields of study, he has said, "In molecular biophysics, you deal with methods of elucidating structures of proteins through such means as x-ray crystallography and spectroscopy. In biochemistry, I studied organic processes on a molecular level—things like DNA replication and genetics."
In addition, at Yale, he worked to try to solve the mysteries of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and his lab work entailed protein purification and DNA sequencing.
After he retires from baseball, he intends to go to medical school and work in medical research. In fact, he has said, "I always wanted to go to med school and it's still something I feel strongly about..."
He aims to help put an end to pediatric cancers. (His older sister, Lesley, is a survivor of pediatric thyroid cancer.)
Two of his favorite hobbies are reading and doing crossword puzzles.
He scored 1410 (out of 1600) on the SAT.
Jason Turbow of "The Wall Street Journal" wrote about him, "Judging by his resume, Craig Breslow is the smartest man in baseball, if not the entire world."
He has calculated the number of times a pitched baseball spins on its way from the pitcher's mound to home plate. About this, he said, "Josh [Beckett] wanted to know if I could figure out how many times a baseball spins on the way to the plate.
There's a lot of variables, but I put in some figures and came up with answers for a fastball, curve, or slider. It's rather simple once you do it."
He is considered "the clubhouse expert on any topic: History, science, the weather, crossword puzzle answers."
The Phillies closer has a degree in marketing and economics from Notre Dame and is pursuing a degree in religious studies and archaeology.
He has said he would have been an archaeologist or a history teacher if he was not a baseball player.
He has been described as "the analytical one" in the Phils' bullpen and as an ancient civilizations buff.
One of his favorite books is Herodotus' "The Histories", which was written over 2,000 years ago.
He takes pleasure in playing chess and discussing the varieties of rocks he sees in the bullpen dirt. He is also said "to enjoy the art of pontification whether it is about baseball strategy or a fly on the wall."
The retired infielder infielder was the valedictorian of his high school, where he posted a 4.2 GPA and took some of the toughest courses offered, including AP Calculus. His calculus teacher said of Garciaparra, “His work was terrific. The detail, the neatness, the preparation—he always took the time to prepare.”
At Georgia Tech, he majored in business management, was on the Dean's List, and was a two-time Academic All-American.
An A's beat writer once characterized him as "very smart."
He was often seen reading in the clubhouse.
This Dodgers catcher earned a degree in government from Dartmouth, where he never received a grade lower than a B.
His favorite book is "A Schopenhauerian Critique of Nietzsche's Thought," which his father, a former professor of European history penned.
He enjoys playing chess.
This utility player earned his degree in economics from Stanford in just three-and-a-half years.
In high school, he had a 3.97 GPA. Also, he scored 1440 on the SAT.
He began studying algebra when his parents introduced him to it when he was in first grade.
He has read "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" by physicist Brian Greene. The tome details how superstring theory reconciles quantum mechanics with Einstein's theory of relativity.
The A's third baseman majored in subatomic physics when he was in college. When asked about this, he said, "Most people find it boring, but I just like it."
This Rockies left-hander majored in physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia. There, he found the medical physics program highly intriguing.
He says he may have pursued a career in cancer treatment research if he had not gotten into baseball.
He is able to explain what gives a fastball its hop, why a slider slides, what makes a curveball curve, and why a sinker sinks. Similarly, he understands the Magnus force and its deviational effects on the movement of a baseball with a forward velocity greater than 90 miles per hour.
He has been called an "intellectual."
In high school, he did exceptionally well in physics, math, and chemistry.
This Giant graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania.
The Tigers' left-fielder was a straight-A student in high school.
This Brewers outfielder graduated from Stanford University with a degree in history. While there, he authored a 20-page paper on patent laws in the Soviet Union.
This Pirates pitcher earned his degree in Operations Research and Financial Engineering from Princeton. His major combined mathematics, engineering, and economics.
Its strong academic reputation was his primary reason for deciding to go to Princeton. Furthermore, he posted a 3.75 GPA at his Ivy League alma mater.
Also, in college he composed a senior thesis entitled, "Investing in Prospects: A Look at the Financial Successes of Major League Baseball Rule IV Drafts from 1989 to 1993." About it, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN said, "The 126-page thesis is brilliantly written and so complex, only a mathematician would be able to completely comprehend its meaning." (NOTE: According to http://libweb5.princeton.edu/theses/index.htm, the work was 140 pages in length.)
The paper earned him an "A" and an Associate Membership for the prestigious Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. His advisor, Professor Rene Carmona, gave it high praise.
He won the George Mueller Award, which is given to the graduating senior adjudged to have, during his or her four undergraduate years, most clearly combined academic excellence and strong performance in intercollegiate sports.
Kurkjian also wrote about him, "He may be the smartest player in baseball and the smartest person in almost any room he enters."
One year at Princeton, he was annoyed by a B+ he received because he had only ever gotten A's in school prior to then.
His head coach, Scott Bradley, believes he was the smartest person on his college baseball team. Bradley has said about him, "He just wants to learn."
In the future, he says he might want to work in entrepreneurship or investment banking.
He got just one question wrong on the math portion of the SAT.
The Padres second baseman was a member of the National Honor Society.
He was the first ever two-time corporation Academic All-American at the University of Florida, where he was also a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection.
This Padres outfielder received his B.A. in anthropology from Princeton. As a senior, he wrote a thesis called "The Game and Community: An Anthropological Look at Baseball in America and Japan."
This outfielder had a 4.25 GPA and often tutored other students in physics when he was in high school.
This Phillies reliever studied physics in his native Cuba.
This Rays outfielder majored in American Studies with an emphasis in creative writing at Columbia.
In high school, he attended the esteemed Peddie School, an academic powerhouse. It has been said that "he was there because he could think, write, and articulate at a level with which his baseball exploits paled by comparison."
One of his coaches there thought he would become a senator, another saw him ending up as a world-famous novelist. While a Peddie student, he worked on an archaeology project in Spain.
He loves poetry.
He once said, "I love talking about books..."
He has been called a bookworm.
This Royals pitcher scored a perfect 800 on the math section of the SAT.
He is said to have an analytical mind.
He likes talking about physics.
This was once written about him: "He's starting to get technical now, sounding more like a math professor than a pitcher."
Teammate Bruce Chen calls him "smarter than the average person."
At USC, he was First-Team Academic All-American.
This Royals pitcher graduated with honors from the Insituto Panamericano in Panama.
He is working towards a degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech.
One year, he was named to the Dean's List.
This Padres right-hander earned a degree in politics from Princeton.
There he wrote his senior thesis on the impact Jackie Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball had on racial attitudes and stereotypes in the media, particularly in "The New York Times."
He named this paper "The Integration of Professional Baseball and Racial Attitudes in America: A Study in Stereotype Change."
This Cubs outfielder earned his degree in economics from Stanford. And, he is pursuing his master's in statistics there during the offseasons.
He has been called a "statistician at heart." Vin Scully referred to him as "a demon statistician."
It has been said that "he has long been a student of stats, signs, and spreadsheets."
As a small child, rather than a security blanket, he carried around a baseball stats book.
His father said about him, "He was only five or six and he was already computing batting averages and ERAs. He'd sit in the bathtub, and I'd say, 'If a guy goes 17-for-37, what's his batting average?'
What struck me is that he'd perform these operations in very creative ways—not just that he got the right answer but his methodology, adding in a factor and then dividing by 10, etc. I'd watch him and say 'Wow!'"
According to a childhood friend, he was studying 10th grade math when he was in the third grade, or so.
He received scholarship offers from most Ivy League universities.
He worked as intern for STATS, Inc., where he tracked the type, velocity, and location of pitches. However, he also sought new statistics and devised his own tracking system.
He is an avid reader.
A favorite web site of his is sporcle.com, which offers challenging trivia and number games.
After baseball, he believes he may return to mathematics.
In eighth grade, he went to Berwick Academy, "a highly selective college preparatory school" where "Students follow a rigorous academic program combining classical education with technology." It offers courses in Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, Science, and Mathematics.
His high school was Phillips Exeter Academy which educates its students in a manner quite similar to the Socratic method of teaching. At the academy: "Students are required to take courses in the arts, classical or modern languages, computer science, English, health and human development, history, mathematics, religion, and science."
"I would say that my first priority was to find a good academic school..." he said about choosing a college.