The List: Jacks of all trades
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

Dave DeBusschere, who died yesterday at 62, was a true rarity in the sports world, an athlete who excelled in two sports. We remember him most, of course, for his years with the Knicks and, before that, the Pistons, but he was also a fine pitcher who probably would have had a solid Major League career if he had not turned his full attention to hoops after only two years in the bigs.

A Hall of Famer in basketball, one of the all-time greats, a champion with two Knicks teams, DeBusschere ranks up there among the best two-sport stars ever. He's in pretty impressive company.

Jim Thorpe defined "natural athlete."
1. Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe, who won the decathlon gold medal in the 1912 Olympics, began his Hall of Fame pro football career in 1915, with the Canton Bulldogs. Playing for $250 a game in the pre-NFL days, Thorpe ran, passed, received, punted, blocked, tackled, and kicked the Bulldogs to unofficial titles in 1916, 1917, and 1919. He also played in the NFL from 1920-28, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Thorpe also played major league baseball, patrolling the outfield for the Giants, Reds, and Braves from 1913-1919, batting .252 with seven home runs and 82 RBI in 282 games.

2. Babe Didrikson
The greatest female athlete of all time, Didrikson played just about everything. (When asked if there was anything she didn't play, she quipped, "Yeah. Dolls.") But she excelled most in track and golf. In the 1932 Olympics, she won golds in the javelin and 80-meter hurdles (she set a world record in the hurdles). She also took home a silver in the high jump.

She then turned most of her attention to golf, where she excelled as an amateur, winning 13 straight tourneys in 1946 and taking the British Amateur in 1947. She also won three U.S. Opens and co-founded the LPGA in 1949. One of the keys to her success on the links was her ability to hit about 250 yards off the tee. How did the 145-pounder do it? "You've got to loosen your girdle and let it rip," she said.

Jackie Robinson was the first to letter in four sports at UCLA.
3. Jackie Robinson
You know all about Jackie Robinson and baseball. But before Robinson broke barriers and starred for the Dodgers, he lettered in four sports at UCLA -- football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. To this day, he's the only Bruin to have accomplished that feat.

He was a standout in all of these sports. He rushed for 954 yards in his college career, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. On the court, he led the Pacific Coast Conference's Southern Division in scoring in 1940 and 1941. In 1940, he won the NCAA long jump title.

Robinson had brief stints playing pro basketball and football. In 1946-47, he played forward for the excellent Los Angeles Red Devils, an independent pro hoops team. He also played in well for parts of two seasons -- 1941 and 1944 -- for the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the excellent, integrated Pacific Coast Pro Football League.

4. Bo Jackson
In 1989, Bo Jackson, playing in the MLB All-Star Game, homered and won MVP honors. After the baseball season ended, he picked up a football and rushed for 950 yards in 11 games for the Raiders, and played in the 1990 Pro Bowl -- the first ever to be in two pro all-star games in the same year.

Bo don't know field hockey ... well, he might.
Jackson, who won the 1985 Heisman Trophy, had put up his best baseball stats in 1989, hitting 32 jacks and driving in 105 runs in 135 games. In eight seasons with the Royals, White Sox, and Angels, he played in only 694 games, hitting 141 homers and driving in 415 runs. His raw baseball talent was so impressive that veteran Howard Johnson said, "Maybe they should see if his body is corked."

In his four partial seasons with the Raiders, he ran for 2,782 yards and 16 TDs, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. A hip injury and hip-replacement surgery ended his football career and cut his baseball career short. What might have been?

5. Bob Hayes
The "World's Fastest Human," Hayes ran a 10.05 in the 100 meter dash finals in the 1964 Olympics to tie the world record and take home the gold (he also won a gold in the 4 x 100 relay, running an 8.6 split time that the L.A. Times called ""the most astonishing sprint of all time."

As a rookie wide receiver with the Cowboys in 1965, Hayes lit up the league, catching 46 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 TDs. The next year, he was even more superb, with 64 catches for 1,232 yards and 13 TDs. During his 11-year NFL career, Hayes caught 371 passes and averaged over 20 yards a catch. He was a three-time All-Pro, and when the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1971, he became the only man ever to win an Olympic Gold and a Super Bowl ring. Many people believe he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but has been shunned because of a drug conviction in the late 1970s.

6. Deion Sanders
Neon Deion did it all.
Prime Time, the only athlete to have played in both the World Series and the Super Bowl, could do it all on the football field. He won rings with both the 49ers and the Cowboys, played both ways for the 'Boys 1996, and was an eight-time All-Pro with 48 career interceptions.

For eight years, Sanders played both baseball and football, and in one week in 1989, he hit a homer for the Yankees and scored a TD for the Falcons, the first pro player to accomplish that feat. In nine partial major league seasons, he batted .263 and stole 186 bases, and had a terrific 1992 World Series, batting .533 in the Braves' losing effort against the Blue Jays.

7. Dave DeBusschere
At the University of Detroit, DeBusschere led the basketball team to three post-season berths and also pitched the baseball team to the NCAA playoffs three times. He was signed by the White Sox, getting a $75,000 bonus, and in the big leagues in 1962 and 1963 he pitched 102 innings, compiling a 3-4 record with a 2.90 ERA. In the off-season, he played for the Detroit Pistons.

When the Pistons made him player-coach at 24 (the youngest coach in NBA history), he gave up baseball and went on to his Hall of Fame basketball career. ""Dave was one heck of a pitcher," Bill "Moose" Skowron told "He could have stayed in the big leagues because he threw so hard."

8. Marion Jones
A high school hoops star, Marion Jones played three seasons as the UNC Tar Heels point guard, a linchpin for a team that went 92-10. "A lot of people didn't take her basketball seriously," said head coach Sylvia Hatchell. "She's not a track athlete playing basketball. She's a basketball player." Indeed. She started as a freshman for the 1994 UNC team that won the NCAA title, and was named to the All America team in 1997, her last year playing college basketball. She skipped her final year of eligibility to devote her attention to track.

Marion Jones
Marion wasn't just a track star playing hoop. She got real game.

A five-time world champion, Jones won three golds (100, 200, 4x100) and two bronzes (long jump and 4x400) in the 2000 Olympics, and plans to compete in the 2004 Athens Games. After that? The WNBA, possibly. Jones was drafted this year by the Phoenix Mercury.

"From a basketball standpoint, we think she could still come in and contribute, maybe pursue a passion of hers after her legacy -- her brilliant track career -- is finished," said Mercury GM Seth Sulka. "We needed to get more athletic on the perimeter, and I don't think you can get more athletic than the fastest woman on the planet."

9. Goose Tatum
Reece "Goose" Tatum, the first great "Clown Prince" of basketball, played for the Harlem Globetrotters from 1946-56 and played a key role in making the team the funniest and one of the greatest of all time. Tatum, whose No. 50 Globetrotters jersey was retired at Madison Square Garden last year, also played in the Negro Leagues for 11 seasons.

Tatum, who began his pro baseball career in 1939, played outfield and first base for the Louisville Black Colonels, Birmingham Black Barons, Indianapolis Clowns, and a half dozen or so other ballclubs. Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein signed Tatum after he saw him clowning around on the field. "Sometimes Tatum would play first base with the glove on his foot," said his teammate, Robert 'Rosel' Williams.

10. Ellsworth Vines
We know what you're thinking -- who? Well, Ellsworth was big enough to get his own Wheaties box in the 1930s, after winning the U.S. Nationals in 1931 and 1932, and blowing away Bunny Austin for the 1932 Wimbledon Championship. He was, without a doubt, one of the tennis greats of his era. "I'm a believer that things get better in time, but, today, I question whether the top player is as good as Vines," Don Budge said in 1994. "He was the best hitter of a tennis ball I've ever seen. When he was on, nobody could beat him."

After his tennis career ended, Vines turned to golf, playing on the PGA for 15 years. Although he never won any of the 100 pro tournaments he played in, his play was consistently excellent: He finished second six times, in the top 10 47 times, and in the top 20 a remarkable 87 times.

Also receiving votes:

  • Jim Brown
  • Ron Reed
  • Gene Conley
  • Danny Ainge
  • Vic Janowicz
  • Kirk Gibson
  • Charlie Ward



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