With famed quarterback Joe Namath making a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley on Wednesday, and the MLB amateur draft concluding that same day, it seemed like an ideal time to reflect on the relationship between the MLB and NFL when it comes to searching for talent.
Way back in 1961, before the amateur draft as we know it was established, the Chicago Cubs tried to woo Joe Namath into playing baseball professionally. Then 18 years old, Namath was made a pretty substantial offer of $50,000. It was his mother, Rose, who put her foot down and insisted Joe go to college instead. Of course, “Broadway Joe” went to the University of Alabama and would ultimately sign to play with the New York Jets, putting an end to any thoughts of professional baseball. The decision clearly worked out just fine for Namath.
But he’s not the only professional football star to have been wooed by baseball during the amateur draft. Here are six other big names whose athletic prowess in multiple sports saw them draw attention from MLB teams.
Dan Marino — QB
Dan was drafted in 1979 by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round. He was a two-way talent who also played shortstop, and — surprise surprise — had a good arm with a solid fastball. He ultimately signed with the Miami Dolphins in 1983 and became a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Deion Sanders — CB
Another Pro Football Hall of Famer, Sanders was actually selected in two different MLB drafts: in the sixth round of 1985 by the Royals, and in the 30th round in 1988 by the New York Yankees. He was drafted fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1989. Sanders is an interesting pick here because he somehow managed to do both. He’s played in the World Series AND the Super Bowl. He has nine major league baseball seasons under his belt, and may forever be the only player to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week at the highest professional level. Why decide between football and baseball when you can do both?
John Elway — QB
Another Kansas City Royals/New York Yankees double-draftee, Elway was taken by the Royals in the 18th round of the 1979 draft, and in the second round by the Yankees in 1981. He ultimately used baseball as leverage to force the Baltimore Colts (who drafted him in 1983) to trade him to the Denver Broncos, and the rest is history for the Hall of Famer.
Colin Kaepernick — QB
Kap, like Namath, was a man on the Chicago Cubs radar, as a pitcher. They selected him in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft. He was more interested in playing football, however, and declined to sign (thought by all accounts he was a much better pitcher than quarterback at the time, with a fastball that was routinely around 92 mph in high school).
Tom Brady — QB
Not sure why I was surprised to see Brady’s name on the list, as he’s proven himself to be a gifted athlete, but this one still stunned me. Tom Brady, no-doubt future Hall of Famer, was selected in the 18th round of the 1995 draft by the now-extinct Montreal Expos. Instead he would go on to sign with the New England Patriots in 2000. I guess that worked out okay?
Makes you wonder if any of the names read off in this year’s MLB amateur draft might be an NFL superstar in the making.