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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Best Two-Sport Athletes - Baseball and Basketball

This is the third of a four part series examining the best two-sport athletes of the "modern" era.  "Modern" is defined in that I had to see them play (so no Jim Thorpe, Wilt Chamberlain, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Bob Hayes, etc.).  Each of the "big three" American sports (Basketball, Baseball, Football) will be paired with the others with best listed, then one "other" category which will consist of one of those 3, and another sport (olympic sports for example).

Here are the first two parts:
Football and Basketball
Football and Baseball

Criteria are as follows:
1) Playing a high level at both.  Not included are going to be people who were good as prepsters but chose one sports over the other and never competed in college or beyond.
2) Accolades at the higher levels: Halls of Fame, All Stars, playing on title teams, big games, achievement over just playing

These were all off the top of my head (little research done, except after the candidates were identified) so I might have missed someone.  Feel free to set me straight!

So without further ado, the Top 5 two-sport athletes in Baseball and Basketball are below.  This one is a strange match of speed, agility, and hand-eye coordination.

#1 - Dave Winfield
College: Minnesota
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 23 seasons)
Highest Basketball: College (Forward)
All Star season (Pro): 12x All Star Game (1977-88)
Honors: First ballot Hall of Famer (2001), 6x Silver Slugger, 7x Gold Glove, AL Comeback Player of the Year (1990), Babe Ruth Award (1992), Branch Rickey Award (1992), Roberto Clemente Award (1994), All-American (1973, Baseball), College World Series MVP (1973 as a pitcher), College Baseball Hall of Fame, Number retired by San Diego Padres (31)
Records: None
Championships: Big 10 Conference (1972 Basketball, 1973 Baseball), World Series (1992)
Comments: Drafted in four professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, ABA, MLB).  Member of the 3,000 hit club.

#2 - Danny Ainge
College: Brigham Young
Highest Baseball: MLB (IF, 3 seasons)
Highest Basketball: NBA (Shooting Guard, 14 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): 1x NBA All Star (1988)
Honors: John Wooden Award (1981), WAC Player of the Year (1981), Consensus First Team All American (1981), Oregon Sports Hall of Fame (1999)
Records: None
Championships: NBA World Champions (1984, 1986)
Comments: A prep sports legend, he is the only person to be a high school first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball.  He won two state high school basketball titles in Oregon.  Played 4 years at BYU concurrently with playing professional baseball.  Hit his first (of two) career home run just a couple months past his 20th birthday.

#3 - Kenny Lofton
College: Arizona
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 17 seasons)
Highest Basketball: College (Point Guard)
All Star season (Pro): 6x All Star Game (1994-99)
Honors: On current Hall of Fame ballot, 4x Gold Glove, 5x Stolen Base Champion (1992-6), Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame (2010)
Records: Indians record for career SB
Championships: National League (2002), American League (1995)
Comments: One of only two players to play in Final Four (1988) and World Series (1995 and 2002), Tim Stoddard, the other, went to the same high school in Chicago.  Didn't play baseball his freshman or sophomore years, walked on his Junior year and played sparingly but was drafted by the Astros.  Played in 95 postseason baseball games.

#4 - Tony Gwynn
College: San Diego State
Highest Baseball: MLB (OF, 20 seasons)
Highest Basketball: College (Point Guard, 4 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): 15x All Star Game (1994-99)
Honors: 2-time All American baseball player, National Baseball Hall of Fame (2007), 5 Gold Gloves (1986 - 1991), 8 Batting Titles (1984 - 1997), Number retired by San Diego Padres.
Records: SDSU record for assists (game, season, and career), Padres records for at-bats, batting average, hits, doubles, triples, runs batted in, runs, walks and stolen bases.
Championships: National League (1984, 1998)
Comments: He was recruited for basketball at SDSU before being convinced to try out for baseball and was drafted by both the NBA and MLB.  He could dunk a basketball even at 5'11".  Member of the 3,000 hit club.

#5 - Mark Hendrickson
College: Washington State
Highest Baseball: MLB (LHP, 10 seasons)
Highest Basketball: NBA (Power Forward, 4 seasons)
All Star season (Pro): None
Honors: 2-time All Pac-10 (basketball) and All Pac-10 (baseball), Opening Day starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins (2008)
Records: None
Championships: None 
Comments: He was also a standout prep tennis player, and won two high school basketball and one high school baseball. He was drafted six times by MLB, and drafted in the NBA as well.  Started his career in NBA while playing semi-pro, then minor league baseball, then went full time to baseball after his NBA career stalled.


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