March, 20 2023
It’s a baseball kind of week, even in the world of football. This Thursday is Opening Day for the Braves and Major League Baseball. To celebrate, The College Football Hall of Fame pulled together a list of Hall of Famers who turned heads on the gridiron as well as the diamond.
1.) Deion Sanders – Florida State
On the gridiron, Sanders shut down opposing receivers in the Seminole secondary. He notched 186 tackles over that time, but more impressively came away with 14 interceptions while also breaking up 27 passes. He earned back-to-back Conesnsus NCAA All-American honors in 1987 and 1988 while also being named to 21 different All-American squads. In his senior season he won the Thorpe Award (given annually to the nation's top defensive back).
On the diamond, Sanders played in parts of nine seasons as an outfielder in the MLB with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. He is the first player to play in a Super Bowl and World Series.
2.) Bo Jackson – Auburn
On the gridiron, during his time playing for the Auburn Tigers football team, Jackson ran for 4,303 career yards, which was the fourth best performance in SEC history. Jackson finished his career with an average of 6.6 yards per carry, which set the SEC record.
On the diamond, in his eight baseball seasons, Jackson had a career batting average of .250, hit 141 home runs and had 415 RBIs, with a slugging average of .474. His best year was 1989, with his effort earning him All-Star status. In 1989, Jackson ranked fourth in the American League in both home runs, with 32, and RBI, with 105.
3.) Jim Thorpe – Carlisle
On the gridiron, Thorpe gained nationwide attention for the first time in 1911. As a running back, defensive back, placekicker and punter, Thorpe scored all his team's points—four field goals and a touchdown—in an 18–15 upset of Harvard. In 1912 Carlisle won the national collegiate championship largely as a result of his efforts – he scored 25 touchdowns and 198 points during the season, according to CNN’s Greg Botelho. Steve Boda, a researcher for the NCAA, credits Thorpe with 27 touchdowns and 224 points. Thorpe rushed 191 times for 1,869 yards, according to Boda; the figures do not include statistics from 2 of Carlisle's 14 games in 1912 because full records are not available.
On the diamond, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants baseball club in 1913 and played sporadically with them as an outfielder for three seasons. After playing in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1916, he returned to the Giants in 1917 but was sold to the Cincinnati Reds early in the season. In the "double no hitter" between Fred Toney of the Reds and Hippo Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs, Thorpe drove in the winning run in the 10th inning. Late in the season, he was sold back to the Giants. Again, he played sporadically for them in 1918 before being traded to the Boston Braves on May 21, 1919, for Pat Ragan. In his career, he amassed 91 runs scored, 82 runs batted in and a .252 batting average over 289 games. He continued to play minor league baseball until 1922.
4.) Kirk Gibson – Michigan State
On the gridiron, Gibson was a four-year letterman who earned first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America honors as a senior while helping lead the Spartans to a share of the 1978 Big Ten Championship. He set career highs in receptions (42), receiving yards (806) and touchdown receptions (7) in 1978. The 806 receiving yards in a single season established a school record at the time, breaking his own record of 748 he set as a sophomore.
On the diamond, Gibson was a first-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers in 1978, Gibson went on to a distinguished 17-year career in Major League Baseball, playing with the Tigers, Dodgers, Royals and Pirates. He played an integral role on two World Championship teams and was selected National League MVP in 1988 after batting .290 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI for the Dodgers.
5.) Cal Hubbard – Geneva
On the gridiron, Hubbard is credited as being one of the inventors of the football position of linebacker. He was an All American and is the only person to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.
On the diamond, Hubbard found success as an umpire. From 1928 onward he spent his football off-season umpiring in minor league baseball. By 1936 Hubbard had been called up to the major leagues, umpiring in the American League from 1936 to 1951, a contemporary with the likes of Yogi Berra. Soon recognized as one of the game's best officials, he was selected to work in the 1938 World Series, followed by three Series appearances. In addition, he umpired in the All Star Game in 1939, 1944 and 1949 behind the plate for half of the 1939 and 1944 midsummer classics.