Recently a friend of mine posted a snarky bit about Brian Jordan, who played in both the NFL and Major League Baseball. This sparked me to look into the phenomenon of people who played in more than one sport on the highest levels a bit more. (Also included are a couple of guys who became famous for, or at least did some major acting.) Any long time readers may even recall that my third ever blog post (February 19, 2012) was about this, so this is kind of a sequel, I suppose. Some of the athletes mentioned were Olympic athletes, which is appropriate since the 2016 Summer Games are obviously underway.
1) Jim Brown. Starting with one of the very best, Jim Brown is definitely one of the greatest football players ever. In his 9 year career with the Cleveland Browns at running back, he led the league in rushing yards 8 times, and was a Pro Bowl pick 9 times. All told, he accumulated a then-record 12,312 rushing yards (with a 5.2 average carry), 2499 receiving yards, 106 rushing touchdowns, and 20 more receiving touchdowns. He was part of one NFL Championship winning team, for the 1964 season. For all these reasons, he was a very deserving Pro Football Hall of Famer. However, he was also an excellent lacrosse player in college, at Syracuse University. So much so that he's in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, too. Finally, he became a successful actor after retiring from football. He had at least supporting roles in films like "The Dirty Dozen (1967), "Ice Station Zebra" (1968), "100 Rifles" (1969), "The Running Man (1987), "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988), and "Mars Attacks!" (1996).
2) Tim Stoddard. Stoddard was a mostly mediocre reliever for 6 clubs in the 1970's and 1980's, including stints with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. Overall he had a won-loss record of 41-35, with a 3.95 ERA, 76 saves, a WHIP (walks and hits per inning) of 1.420, and an Adjusted ERA of 101 (100 is exactly average). While with the Orioles he played in the 1979 World Series, and was awarded a ring for the winning 1983 Orioles team (although he didn't play in that series). However, he was also a very good basketball player. In college, with the North Carolina State Wolfpack, he was a starting power forward on their NCAA title-winning 1973-74 squad. The team that interrupted the UCLA juggernaut. As such, he's the only guy to play in a World Series and win a NCAA basketball title. ( Kenny Lofton came close, but his University of Arizona team lost in the Final Four.)
3) Cumberland Posey (who went by the now embarrassing nickname of "Cum"). Posey was an excellent basketball player and a decent baseball player. Alas, because of the racial barrier in most professional sports in the early 20th century in the U.S., the African-American Posey wasn't allowed in the big pro basketball leagues or Major League Baseball. Instead he played for the segregated teams that he could. Unfortunately, these leagues didn't keep extensive statistics, so I can't tell you his scoring average, slugging average, etc. His basketball ability is mostly based on the opinions of competitors and audiences. After a brief playing career in baseball, he became a manager, owner, and league official in the Negro Leagues, with the Homestead Grays, one of the best teams in the league (they won pennants from 1937-45). Because of his accomplishments, he was elected to both the Baseball Hall of Fame (2006) and the Basketball Hall of Fame (2016).
4) Chris Bahr. Bahr is best known for being a long time kicker in the NFL, playing 14 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers from 1976-89. He converted 63% of his field goal attempts, 94% of his extra point attempts, and finished with 1213 points. He also kicked for two Super Bowl winning teams with the Raiders, Super Bowls 15 and 18. However, he was also an accomplished soccer player (or football player, to readers in pretty much every country but the U.S.). In fact, he was Rookie of the Year for the 1975 NASL season, with the Philadelphia Atoms. He scored 11 goals in 22 games. (I realize this league wasn't on par with the best leagues in other countries, like Europe, but still.)
5) Michael Carter. Carter had a very successful NFL career as a nosetackle with the San Francisco 49ers from 1984-92. He started 97 of 121 games, got 22.5 sacks, was named to 3 Pro Bowls, and was rated All-Pro 3 times as well. Continuing the "3's" he was part of 3 Super Bowl winners, in Super Bowls 19, 23, and 24. But, he was also an excellent shot-putter. He won the Silver Medal for the U.S. in the 1984 games.
6) Ollie Matson. Like Carter, Matson was a great football player and Olympian. In the 1952 Summer Games he won a Bronze Medal in the 400 meter run, and then a Silver as part of the 4X400 relay team. From 1952-66 he played in the NFL, with the Chicago Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, and the Philadelphia Eagles. A halfback, he accumulated 5173 rushing yards (4.4 average) with 40 touchdowns, and then 3285 receiving yards, and 23 more touchdowns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
7) Eddie Eagan. Eagan has the distinction of being the only person to win gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics in different events. In the 1920 Summer Games Eagan won gold for the U.S. in boxing, as a light heavyweight. Then, in the 1932 Winter Games, he again won gold, this time as part of the 4 man bobsled team. He later became a lawyer, and then a Colonel in the army.
8) Sammy Byrd. Byrd started out as a baseball player, as an outfielder. Largely a reserve player, he played 8 years, accumulating a .274 batting average, .350 on base percentage, .412 slugging average, with 465 hits, 38 homers, and 220 rbi. He played for the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. As a Yankee, he earned the nickname "Babe Ruth's Legs," as he often replaced Ruth late in games on the bases as a pinch runner or in the field (the rotund Ruth was neither a fast runner nor a good fielder at this point in his career). He played in the 1932 World Series with the victorious Yankees. However, he cut his baseball career short to concentrate on golf. He had good success as a pro too, winning 6 PGA events. In golf Majors he finished 3rd (1941) and 4th (1942) in the Masters, and 2nd in the 1945 PGA Championship. He's the only man to play in both a World Series and a Masters.
9) Katie Taylor. Taylor is mostly known as a boxer, in the lightweight division. She won a gold medal at the 2012 Games for Ireland. She also was good enough at association football (soccer to Americans) to make the Irish national team from 2006-9, playing midfielder/forward. She's currently competing in the Summer Games, so she may well add to her medal total.
10) Sir George Thomas. This one is a bit of a stretch, since it involves a game rather than a sport. But, Thomas was presumably the best badminton player England ever saw, as he was the champion in singles, doubles, or mixed doubles from 1906-28. He also played tennis, reaching the semifinals in doubles at Wimbledon in 1911. He was the inaugural member of the Badminton Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was the British Chess champion in 1923 and 1934.
11) Charlie Ward. Ward won the Heisman Trophy playing quarterback at Florida State University in 1993. However, it became known that most scouts predicted he would be a 3rd to 5th round NFL draft pick. There were concerns about his height, among other things (he was 6'2", which is on the short side for a quarterback). Ward said he would play basketball if he wasn't picked in the 1st round. Subsequently he wasn't chosen at all in the NFL draft. The NBA's New York Knicks, though, did draft him in the first round of their draft. Charlie went on to a solid 11 year career at guard, averaging 6.3 points a game, 2.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.2 steals, mostly as a starter. He also played for the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
12) James Jett. Jett won a gold medal as part of the 4X100 relay in the 1992 Olympics. After that, he began his 10 year career in the NFL, playing wide receiver. He started 75 of 140 games, and caught 256 passes for 4417 yards (17.3 average) and 30 touchdowns. And along with Usain Bolt he probably has the most appropriate name for a fast runner.
13) Rebecca Romero. Romero won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in the quadruple sculls (rowing) for England. Unfortunately, injuries forced her to retire. However, she went into cycling instead. And became good enough to win a gold medal in individual pursuit cycling in the 2008 Summer Games.
14) Charley Powell. Powell had a 7 year career in the NFL, with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders in the late 1950's/early 60's. He played Defensive End, Linebacker, and End. Alas, defensive stats weren't well recorded in those days, so I can't provide much detail. He is alleged to have sacked Hall of Famer Bobby Layne 10 times in one game (sacks weren't officially recorded until the early 1980's). Powell also was a professional boxer, competing in the heavyweight division. His final record was 25-11-3, with 17 knockouts. He did knockout the then #2 contender, Nino Valdes, in 1959. He was ranked as high as #4 himself. Included in his career were losses to such notables as Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay). In addition to these accomplishments, he also played minor league baseball and was offered a tryout with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.
15) Chuck Connors. Connors is best known for starring on the television series "The Rifle Man," from 1958-63. However, he was also quite the athlete. He played 2 years with the Boston Celtics at forward/center, back when the team was in the Basketball Association of America (they were absorbed in the NBA in 1949). He played in 53 games, and averaged 4.5 points a game, and 0.8 assists (rebounds weren't tabulated back then). Moving to Major League Baseball, Chuck played 2 seasons, with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. His batting average was .239, his lifetime on base percentage was .280, and his slugging average was .302. He hit 2 homers, and drove in 18 runs, and finished with an OPS adjusted of 55 (or not very good at all--100 is average). As an actor, in addition to "The Rifle Man" he had roles in 1957's "Old Yeller," 1963's "Flipper," 1971's "Support Your Local Gunfighter," 1973's "Soylent Green," 1979's "Tourist Trap," as well as in the famous television series "Roots" (1977).
16) Jim Riley. I'll end on the most obscure one. Riley played several years of professional hockey, mostly with teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey League in the years before and after World War I. He was even on a Stanley Cup winning squad, the Seattle Metropolitans in 1916-17, back when the Cup was awarded to teams in other pro leagues if they beat the National Hockey League champion squad, in a playoff series, as happened here. Later, Riley did play briefly in the NHL, with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in 1926-27. He played in either 9 or 17 games (the sources differ), and had 2 assists. He also had a very brief MLB career, playing with the St. Louis Browns in 1921, and the Washington Senators in 1923. He played in 6 games, accumulating 0 hits in 14 at bats. (He did score 1 run ,and walk 3 times.) So his batting average was .000. his on base percentage .176, and his slugging average .000, for a total adjusted OPS of -52! But, to give Riley credit, to date he's the only man to play in both the NHL and MLB.