The Cincinnati Reds put out a tweet this week looking back to May 1, 2001, when Deion Sanders returned to baseball after a three-year absence. It didn’t take long for me to notice and put in my two cents’ worth.
What a day he had too. On this day alone, just look at what he accomplished…
Sanders drove a pitch into center field for a single.
Then he turned on a pitch and knocked a three-run homer over the right field wall extending the Reds lead to 5-1.
Then he fooled the Dodgers with a sneak bunt for a single. What was amazing was the fact that he was basically on the bag before the second baseman could field the ball.
After he got on base, he stole third base standing up! The catcher did not even raise up to make a throw.
You want iconic?
Deion Sanders would spend a month in the minor leagues with no guarantees from the organization that he would be called up to the parent club. The thing is, no matter if you are a sports icon or an unknown, a batting average of .460 in a minor league stint will get anyone into the major leagues.
Overall, Deion Sanders, aka “Primetime,” was one of the most unique MLBbro icons ever to play the game of baseball. He was one of the few in the history of sports to officially be on the field to play football and baseball on the same day! To put this honor in perspective, Deion played three games (Two baseball, and one football) in 24 hours in 1992.
In that time, on September 5, 1992, Sanders became the first professional athlete to score a touchdown in the NFL and a home run in an MLB game.
Want to talk about a World Series performance? Sanders left planet Earth hitting .533 with eight hits, four runs and an RBI in four games. If the Braves would have won, this man would have been a landslide World Series MVP.
Over Primetime’s career, he hit .263 with 39 homers and 168 RBI. But it’s not the stats that he brought to the Braves, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Yankees. He brought interest to the casual baseball fan, something that baseball is sorely lacking today.
With Shohei Ohtani being celebrated as the “Unicorn” of Major League Baseball being able to dominate not only the mound as a pitcher but at the plate as a hitter, why hasn’t the same love and adulation gone to the three players who have played two sports simultaneously, including baseball? Deion Sanders is one of them, who’s the other?
Like Deion Sanders, football will always be the legacy that Jackson is attached to because of the superhuman efforts on the field. But while at Auburn, Bo played the game of football and baseball at absurd levels. Then when he turned pro, the world began to understand that BO KNOWS the game of football and baseball…
The game of baseball owes a debt of gratitude to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for getting the services of Bo before the NFL. When the Buccaneers called Jackson’s bluff of foregoing the NFL for baseball and drafted him in 1986, Bo was off to play with the Kansas City Royals.
His first at bat ended up as a home run off Hall of Fame pitcher, Steve Carlton. His combination of speed and power was never seen before…or since. Even his frustrations with strikeouts were a sight to behold. How many YouTube video clips can you find Bo breaking a bat over his head? Just insane.
While being known as a powerful hitter, his outfield antics were just as amazing. Plus…that arm!
If you look at the video, his first throw, nailing fellow MLBbro Harold Reynolds at the plate basically shut the game down for 10-15 minutes (Think about how long it would have been today with instant replay!). The second throw was when Bo was with the Chicago White Sox after having hip replacement surgery.
Like Deion, Bo Jackson’s stats aren’t mind-blowing, with a batting average of .250 with 141 homers and 415 RBI, but rather his ability to make plays that no one at that time or even today could make. Even the game Deion and Bo Jackson played together in 1990 was a memory!
Mental Toughness Defines Bo Jackson & Deion Sanders
What made it amazing for these two MLBbro icons playing two sports at the same time was the mindset. To deal with the physical aspect is one thing. But the mental and disciplinary aspect is another. Sanders even admitted on the Club Shay Shay podcast that baseball was much more difficult.
“That ball does some things to you,” Sanders said when asked which sport was harder at the professional level. “Any sport that you can fail seven out of ten times and become great and make $200-300 million it, that’s a hard sport.”
“I love challenges and I could not master it. And it frustrated me because I hate to lose and I hate I’m not mastering something that I know, if I just had more time I could,” Sanders added.
We always discuss Bo and Deion as the premiere two-sport athletes in history, but there’s a third athlete who also played two pro sports and was an All-Star in both.
The former NFL and MLB player has become the forgotten two-sport star:
Jordan was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft out of the University of Richmond. He made his MLB debut on April 8, 1992
Jordan played lasted 15 seasons in the big leagues, playing for four different teams. His first seven years were with the Cardinals and the next five were with the Atlanta Braves. In 1998, his last season in St. Louis, he was elite, hitting a career-high .316 and scoring 100 runs and a career-high with 25 home runs. After signing a $21M deal with the Braves. Jordan Bro bombed 23 times and drove in a career-high 115 runs. He was named a National League All-Star in 1999.
For his career, Jordan hit .282, smacked 184 homers, and drove in 821 runs. While Brian Jordan was in the minor leagues, he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 1989 NFL draft, before catching on with the Atlanta Falcons and played professional football while he was also playing minor league baseball for the Cardinals.
In 36 NFL games, spanning three seasons, Jordan finished with five interceptions and recovered four fumbles. He played all 16 games for the Falcons in the 90 and 91 season. Jordan actually played just two fewer NFL games than Jackson, yet Jackson gets more notoriety. In 1991, Jordan was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
Brian Jordan Against Specialization
Jordan is another former two-sport star who is against today’s specialization of athletes at a young age.
“Personally I don’t like it, I think it limits a kid’s options and to me, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “You’re taking an athlete’s abilities away from them, I feel like if you play different sports, you become a better athlete. You could have a kid with great potential and all the ability in the world, and you limit him? I’m totally against it.
“Everyone asks me the question, will we see another two-sport professional athlete, and my answer is no: simply because of coaches not allowing these kids to grow up and have fun and utilize all their options and abilities.”
That athleticism that Jordan speaks of is hard to find in today’s MLB. there are some uber-athletic guys in the league, but none of the iconic ilk of the aforementioned two-sport legends.
Former NFL wide receiver Golden Tate may be done making plays on a football field, but he’s looking to extend his athletic career within our national pastime. Earlier this week, Golden signed a contract with the Port Angeles Lefties of the West Coast League.
Former MLB pitcher Jeff Samardzija is normally the name that people mention when referencing recent two-way athletes from the University of Notre Dame, but Tate was another member of the fighting Irish who made a name for himself on the diamond as well as the gridiron.
After only appearing in 18 games his freshman year, Golden racked up 73 hits in 55 games as a sophomore. He hit .329 with eight doubles and 4 triples while driving in 21 for Notre Dame and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 50th round of the 2010 MLB draft, his second time coming off the draft board (He was taken in the 42nd round out of high school in 2007).
Tate will start in centerfield for the Lefties and is excited about the opportunity to revive his baseball career.
“I am extremely thankful to the West Coast League and the Port Angeles Lefties for allowing me to join their league,” Tate said in a statement. “As some might know, I was drafted twice in baseball. As a child, my first love was baseball, so I’m excited about the opportunity to compete against some of the best young players in the league. I look forward to having a lot of fun and exploring baseball more.”
Tate is probably the most notable football player to take baseball seriously since Tim Tebow, and we all remember how that turned out. Only time will tell if Golden’s long-shot MLB dreams are legit, but if he’s able to dust off the cleats and eventually make it to The Show, he’ll join a special group of elite athletes who have played both professional football and baseball.
Tate is highly unlikely to join the ranks of Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan, but he’s already accomplished something special by being drafted in both leagues. Here are a few other recent Black NFL players who hold this distinction. Unfortunately, each player mentioned chose football over baseball, something that we’ve seen far too often over the past 30 years.
Russell was drafted in the 41st round out of high school in 2007 by Baltimore, and again in 2010 when the Colorado Rockies made him a 4th round selection.
Kap was selected in the 43rd round by the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
Winston was a 15th round pick out of high school by the Texas Rangers in 2012.
Shaq was drafted in the 18th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2012.
Turned down $9M bonus from Oakland A’s to chase Heisman dreams at Oklahoma.