The 23 Greatest Dual-Sport Stars in Baseball History

Anthony LifrieriContributor IJune 16, 2011

The 23 Greatest Dual-Sport Stars in Baseball History

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - 1990:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals stands ready at the plate during a game in the 1990 season at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Most professional athletes are great all-around athletes.

    Usually they are good at multiple sports and excel in them at the collegiate or even professional level.

    Some dabble in another sport, some are drafted but never play and some play more than one sport at once.

    Here is a list of the 23 greatest dual-sport stars in baseball history.

Joe Mauer

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 9: Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after a called strike three in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics on April 9, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Athletics defeated the Twins 1-0. (Photo by Han
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Joe Mauer was once viewed as one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country.  

    Rather than accept a full ride to Florida State, he instead decided to go the baseball route and entered the MLB draft.

    Ten years, an MVP award and $200 million later, Mauer can definitely say he made the right choice.

Dave Winfield

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    1991: Dave Winfield of the Anaheim Angels poses before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers during a 1991 season game. (Photo by: Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Dave Winfield was such a great athlete that he is one of three players to be drafted by four major athletic leagues: the NFL, NBA, ABA and MLB.

    In fact, Winfield was such an elite athlete that the Minnesota Vikings drafted him despite the fact he never played college football.

    Winny wisely perused a baseball career and went on to become one of the greatest players of the last 30 years, making the Hall of Fame and even winning a World Series title with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bo Jackson

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    Bo knows everything.

    Seriously, Bo Jackson was the greatest all-around athlete ever.  

    He made his bones as an Oakland Raider but also played All-Star-caliber baseball for the Kansas City Royals.

    A freak injury derailed the career of what should have been the first athlete to make both the NFL and MLB Hall of Fame, but we will always remember Bo as the modern Achilles who was simply on another level of physical being.

Charlie Ward

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    Another great all-around athlete, Charlie Ward was drafted in three different leagues, including twice in the MLB draft.  

    He also won the Heisman Trophy and could have been a starting quarterback in the NFL.

    Instead of baseball and football, Ward chose basketball and became one of the best point guards in the league. 

    Ward is remembered as one of the best athletes of all time and probably could have made a career with the Yankees or Brewers work.

Carl Crawford

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 14:  Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox catches a fly ball against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on June 14, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Crawford is one of the finest athletes in the world and was offered scholarships to UCLA to play basketball and a bunch of premier colleges to play football as on option quarterback.

    Instead, Crawford decided to become a baseball player and was taken in the second round by the then-Devil Rays. 

    Crawford would mold himself into a perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer.

Deion Sanders

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    Prime Time was best known as a football player, but he also dabbled in baseball for nearly a decade and put up respectable stats.

    Sanders was a premier base stealer and could have been a great baseball player if he had focused on baseball.

    Here's a fun fact: The Braves got the Tomahawk Chop from Sanders' FSU days when he joined the Bravos.

    Still, football worked out for him. He won three Super Bowls and became known as the greatest cornerback of all time.

Dave Logan

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    Dave Logan is yet another player to be drafted in three major sports leagues: the NFL, NBA and MLB. 

    The Cincinnati Reds took a shot on him, but Logan instead decided to focus on football.

    He played for nearly a decade in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos.

    Upon his retirement, he got into broadcasting, and he is now best known as the play-by-play announcer for the Denver Broncos on the radio.

John Elway

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    31 Jan 1999:   John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass the ball during the Superbowl XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Broncos defeated the Falcons 34-19. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Elway be the most sinister choice on the list because he used his immense baseball talent to trick the Colts into trading him to the Broncos.

    Elway demanded a trade and threatened to become a full-time New York Yankee if they would not comply.

    Because the Colts didn’t want to waste a No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they complied and traded him. It worked out pretty well for the Broncos and Elway.

Dan Marino

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    Marino was a standout athlete in high school and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 1979 draft.

    Instead, Marino went to Pitt to play college football, which would eventually lead to the NFL.

    You know the rest of the story. Marino would become one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and became synonymous with the Miami Dolphins.

Tom Brady

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/G
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Brady was a catcher drafted by the Expos in 1995.

    Instead he went the football route.

    Last I checked, it worked out well for him.

Lou Gehrig

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    NEW YORK - MAY 02:  The plaque of Lou Gehrig is seen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium prior to game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 2, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12-3.  (P
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Believe it or not, Lou Gehrig was a great college football player and could have been a pro if there was an NFL that existed as it later would.

    Instead, Gehrig decided to focus on his true love: baseball. He would become one of the greatest players ever and a symbol for class.

    It should also be noted he was on pace to break every offensive record in baseball until the disease later named for him sapped his strength and eventually his life.

    Still, it does create a debate on whether Gehrig was the greatest baseball player ever. What do you think?

Michael Jordan

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 7:  Michael Jordan #45 of the Chicago White Sox bats during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs on April 7, 1994 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Remember Jordan’s first retirement so he could focus on baseball?

    Yeah, it was a bit of a failed experiment, but his speed did translate to the basepaths.  

    Jordan stole a few bases and did have the raw tools to be a major leaguer—just not a very good one.

    Jordan cited this time as getting back his love for basketball, and he returned to the Bulls to resume his epic career.

Danny Ainge

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    BOSTON - MAY 28:  Team president Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics celebrates with the Eastern COnference trophy after the Celtics won 96-84 against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden o
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The genius that formed the Boston Three Party also was once one of the best all-around athletes in the world.  

    Ainge was a three-sport star in high school and is the only athlete ever to be a high school first team All-American in football, baseball and basketball.

    Ainge was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1977, and by 1979 he was in the big leagues.  

    His numbers weren’t great, only hitting .220, but consider that he became the youngest Blue Jay to hit a home run at the age of 20 years and 77 days, and you’ll realize he had potential.

    However, Ainge had enough of baseball in 1981 and went the basketball route, where he became a key cog in the Celtic teams of the 1980s.

Jackie Robinson

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    The man who broke the color barrier for sports was also the first UCLA athlete to letter in four sports: football, baseball, basketball and track.

    Playing for the Bruins’ basketball team, Robinson twice led the Pac-10 in scoring, and he was the 1940 NCAA champion in the long jump.

    He was also a two-time All-American running back.

    Robinson chose to pursue a professional baseball career and became one of the game’s legendary players both on and off the field.

Jim Thorpe

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    Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be the greatest athlete ever, and his athletic prowess was not limited to any one sport.

    Thorpe was an Olympic legend, an epic football player and even a pro baseball player.

    He played six seasons for the Giants, Reds and Braves and hit a career .252. Not bad for the deadball era.

Jim Brown

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    Yup, Jim Brown played baseball too.  

    Among his various sports, he was offered a minor league contract by the New York Yankees, but he turned it down.

    He is also considered the greatest lacrosse player of all time.

    However, he went the NFL route and had a decent career...

Bob Gibson

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    Bob Gibson was a star of both basketball and baseball during his youth.

    Gibson even made it as a professional basketball player, playing a year for the Harlem Globetrotters.

    He dabbled in it during the baseball offseason until he was offered $4,000 to quit by Cardinal GM Bing Devine.

    Gibson accepted the offer, which allowed him to focus on baseball. This allowed him to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

Kirk Gibson

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    Kirk Gibson is best known for his heroics in the 1988 World Series, where he hit an epic home run off Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley while badly injured.

    However, Gibson also spent time playing football at Michigan State, where he was an All-American wide receiver and helped lead the Spartans to a Big Ten title and some bowl games.

    It was at Michigan State that he tried baseball and became an elite prospect.

    Gibson would be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers and the seventh round of the NFL draft by the former St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals.

    He chose to focus on baseball, which is a decision he probably doesn’t regret.

Chuck Connors

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    Chuck Connors played for the Boston Celtics for a few years and was a solid player.

    He also played baseball for a few major league teams, including the Dodgers and Cubs.  

    He was even drafted by the Bears of the NFL. 

    However, Connors would leave sports behind in the 1950s and become an actor. His most famous role was as the star of The Rifleman.  

    The Rifleman was a famous Western TV show that forever cemented Connors’ nickname: “The Rifleman.”

Brian Jordan

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Brian Jordan #33 of the Atlanta Braves poses during photo day at Cracker Jack Stadium on February 28, 2005 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The second Jordan on this list was probably more successful at his other sport than Michael was.

    Brian played football for the Atlanta Falcons for a couple of seasons and wasn’t bad. However, he realized he was better at baseball and decided to focus on a baseball career.

    Jordan became a quality outfielder for several seasons in Major League Baseball. 

    He played for the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers and Rangers and was an All-Star in 1999.

Lou Brock

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    Brock had a Hall of Fame career for the St. Louis Cardinals and was part of one of the most lopsided trades in MLB History.

    What many don’t know about him is that he also played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

    Brock was a good basketball player, but it was obviously a better move for the speedster to focus on stealing bases rather than guest-starring on Scooby Doo.

Satchel Paige

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    Yet another legendary baseball player who played for the Globetrotters.

    After Paige was for the most part finished as a major leaguer, he was paid good money to appear with the team and do funny routines.

    Although he never played a game for them, the fact that he traveled on the team and his legendary baseball status put him on this list.

Tony Gwynn

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    Gwynn was a standout in college in both baseball and basketball.

    Believe it or not, Captain Video was drafted by both the San Diego Padres and San Diego Clippers on the same day.

    Gwynn decided to focus on baseball and became one of the greatest hitters ever and a Hall of Famer.