Two-Sport U.S Pro Athletes: A Dozen of Them
by Henry Liao for philippinebasketball.ph (07/17/2011)
They are Kevin Joseph (Chuck) Connors, Donald Eugene (Gene) Conley, David Albert (Dave) DeBusschere, Daniel Rae (Danny) Ainge, Howard Henry (Stretch) Schultz, Richard Morrow (Dick) Groat, Steve Absher Hamilton, Ronald Lee (Ron) Reed, Richard James (Dick) Ricketts Jr., Charles Francis (Cotton) Nash, Frank Conrad (Frankie) Baumholtz, and Mark Allan Hendrickson.
Connors, while serving the Army, moonlighted as a pro basketball player. The 6-6 center-forward from Seton Hall University saw action in 14 games with the Rochester Royals in the National Basketball League during the 1945-46 season.
Following his military discharge in 1946, Connors joined the newly-formed Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America (the harbinger of the NBA). He made a combined 53 appearances in two seasons with the Celtics from 1946 to 1948.
Connors subsequently switched sports.
Connors was a first baseman for one game with the 1949 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers, his favorite baseball organization as a youngster. He also suited up for the Chicago Cubs in 1951.
Following his retirement from sports, Connors became an actor and starred in the popular television show ?The Rifleman.?
Conley, a 6-8 frontliner, appeared with the Boston Celtics during the 1952-53 NBA wars. Thereafter, he gave up basketball for a bat, hooking up with the Boston Red Sox for the next five seasons.
Conley returned to the NBA with the Celtics in 1958-59. He spent two more seasons (1959-61) with the Hub City squad before moving over to the New York Knicks in 1962-63 for another two-year stint.
A product of Washington State University, Conley snared three NBA titles with the Celtics.
DeBusschere was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox of the American League in 1962 and 1963. He pitched in 36 games and posted a 3-win, 4-loss record overall.
The Detroit native also launched his NBA career in 1962-63 with the Detroit Pistons. That meant he was splitting time with both organizations during those years.
In November 1964, DeBusschere was named the Pistons? player and head coach at age 24. He thus became the youngest head coach in NBA history, a distinction that he still holds until now.
Just six days before Christmas of 1968, New York acquired DeBusschere from Detroit via a trade.
With a team built around two-time Finals Most Valuable Player awardee, flashy guard Walt Frazier and cerebral forward and future Senator Bill Bradley (it also included backup forward-center Phil Jackson, who subsequently became the winningest coach in league annals with 11 titles), the rugged 6-6 DeBusschere earned a pair of championship rings with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973 while essaying the starting power forward position.
Ainge saw action with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League for three seasons from 1979-81 as a second baseman, outfielder and third baseman while still attending Brigham Young University (1977-81). He had been selected by the Blue Jays organization in the 15th round of the free-agent baseball draft in June 1977.
In 1981, the Boston Celtics picked Ainge in the second round of the NBA draft but the Eugene, Oregon native elected to ink a three-year deal with the Blue Jays worth an estimated $500,000.
Ainge played baseball for several months in Toronto but following a work stoppage in major-league baseball during the summer of 1981, he opted to retire and terminate his Blue Jays contract, which had contained a no-pro basketball clause.
Ainge, who appeared in 211 games with the Blue Jays and owned a .220 batting average, subsequently joined the Celtics in December 1981. The 6-5 off-guard donned the Boston colors for seven-plus seasons, picking up NBA title rings in 1984 and 1986 in support of the Celtics? Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
Ainge subsequently served time with the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns in a 14-year NBA stint (1981-95).
Ainge went into NBA coaching with the Suns from 1996 to 1999. In 2003-04, he returned to the Celtics organization as its executive director of basketball operations. The 52-year-old Ainge is currently the Celts? president of basketball operations.
Schultz played baseball from 1943 to 1948 and was the player dubiously traded by the Brooklyn Dodgers to make room for black pioneer Jackie Robinson. During the period, Howie also moonlighted as a cager, seeing action with the Anderson Duffey Packers in the National Basketball League from 1946-49.
The 6-6 center subsequently latched on with Anderson, Fort Wayne and Minneapolis in the NBA, capturing league championships with the Lakers in 1952.
Groat was a prominent All-Star shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. As a 6-1 guard, the University of Duke grad appeared in 26 games with the NBA?s Fort Wayne Pistons in 1952-53.
Hamilton was a pitcher for 12 years and gained recognition as a relief specialist for the New York Yankees. The 6-7 forward-center suited up for the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958-59 and 1959-60.
Reed played two major-league pro sports at one time. The multi-dimensional 6-5 athlete out of Notre Dame University saw action with the Detroit Pistons in 1965-66 and 1966-67, making a combined 118 appearances, and was also employed by the Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1975.
Ricketts, a 6-7 frontliner, played with the St. Louis Hawks and Rochester/Cincinnati Royals in three NBA seasons from 1955-58 then became a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959.
Nash was a major-league baseball player in 13 games over three seasons before switching to basketball. As a 6-6 forward out of the University of Kentucky, he split time with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warriors during the 1964-65 NBA campaign then hooked up with the Kentucky Colonels in the inaugural 1967-68 season of the now-defunct American Basketball Association.
Baumholtz spent 10 seasons in major-league baseball as an outfielder and suited up for the Youngstown Bears in the National Basketball League in 1945-46 and the Cleveland Rebels in the Basketball Association of America in 1946-47 as a 5-11 guard.
Hendrickson is the only active major-league basketball/baseball athlete today. A product of Washington State University, Hendrickson saw action with the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers in four NBA seasons from 1996-2000.
He turned to baseball in 2003, essaying the role of a pitcher for the American League?s Tampa Bay Devil Rays for four years. He later found employment with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 and Florida Marlins in 2008 and is currently a relief pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
At 6-9, the 37-year-old Hendrickson is the third-tallest athlete in major-league baseball today.