What we are seeing Shohei Ohtani do on the pitcher’s mound and in the batter’s box is impressive, but being a two-way player in one sport is nothing like being a professional in two sports. Let’s pay some respect to the best two-way athletes in sports history.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
When we hear “Babe,” our minds immediately go to baseball’s best two-way player, Babe Ruth. However, there was another “Babe” who was dominating during Ruth’s time, and that’s Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Mildred Ella Didrikson Zaharias resembles of a folk hero. It’s hard even to fathom that one person could accomplish all she did. In the 1932 Olympics, she received three medals, two of which were gold for the javelin throw and 80-meter hurdles.
Then, she decided to give golf a whirl, winning 10 LPGA titles, with the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open her most prominent win. Sadly, Babe succumbed to colon cancer at age 45, but her legacy lives on forever.
Another athlete that had success at the Olympic Games was Bob Hayes. During the 1964 Tokyo Games, Hayes was a speeding bullet in the 100-yard dash, setting a world record and the nickname “Bullet” that stayed with him to the gridiron.
Hayes became a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Dallas Cowboys, winning a Super Bowl in 1972. In 2009, Hayes got the knock from David Baker and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, capping his remarkable career.
Most sports fans remember Bob Gibson’s days with the St. Louis Cardinals. Gibson’s intimidating presence and flamethrowing fastball led him to a Hall of Fame baseball career that peaked in 1968 when he finished the season with a 1.12 ERA. The fact that Gibson was so dominant that MLB changed the height of the pitcher’s mound the following year proves how great he was.
But before Gibson made his lasting mark in the MLB, he was a main cog of the most successful basketball team—the Harlem Globetrotters. Some of Gibson’s teammates were adamant he was a better hoopster than a baseball player, which is scary to imagine.
“Neon” Deion Sanders had the charisma and talent to match, considering he played in an MLB and NFL game on the same day in 1992. As a member of Atlanta’s Braves and Falcons, he did his usual thing at cornerback and then flew to Pittsburgh for the Braves playoff game.
The back of Sanders’s baseball card isn’t that impressive, with a .711 OPS. And despite his blazing speed on the football field, he didn’t steal bases well, succeeding less than 70 percent of the time. But that doesn’t taint his career as a football player and one of the best cornerbacks ever.
Like how Bo knows about everything, we know he’s the most extraordinary two-way athlete ever. Jackson did things in his career that many players in each sport could only imagine. He won the 1985 Heisman Trophy at Auburn, All-Star game MVP for the Kansas City Royals in 1989, and a Pro Bowl bid with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990, where he averaged 5.6 yards a carry. There will never be another Bo Jackson.
This trip down memory lane of the best two-way athletes in sports history shows how special these people were on the playing field. That’s why no one will ever forget these legends of the game.