Dave Winfield, Kenny Lofton and 8 other MLB players who starred in March Madness
Winfield, Lofton and other MLB/NCAA Tourney stars
Bo Jackson knew football and baseball (and track and field and, briefly, basketball), but he's hardly the only two-sport star to ever play Major League Baseball.
With the bracket on our minds and Shamrock Shakes in our bellies, we took a look at MLB players who once upon a time got to dance on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer:
Hoopheads know Ainge as the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics and, probably, as a shooting guard for the 1984 and '86 NBA champion Celtics. Back before he was NBA Royalty, Ainge was a Blue Jay who went 0-for-2 against the Indians when Len Barker threw a perfect game in '81 (shown above).
Drafted by the Jays in 1977, Ainge made it to the bigs two years later while he was still in college at BYU. In '79, Ainge led the Cougars in scoring with 18.4 ppg on the way to an NCAA Tournament appearance ... where they were bounced by San Francisco after a first-round bye.
Two months later, Ainge went 3-for-4 in his MLB debut for the Jays. He took the Cougars to the tourney again in 1980 (and lost in the first round again). In 1981, however, Ainge left his mark on NCAA tournament history when he finished off a ridiculous coast-to-coast buzzer-beating layup to defeat Notre Dame and send BYU to the Elite Eight:
He played three seasons in MLB before opting to pursue a career in basketball.
Nash played all of 13 games in MLB, but managed to record the final three putouts of Joe Horlen's no-hitter for the White Sox in 1967. More likely, Nash is remembered for his contributions to the University of Kentucky's basketball legacy from 1961-1964.
In two NCAA Tournament appearances, Nash and the Wildcats went 1-3, reaching the regional final in 1962 (the third loss came in a 1964 Mideast region consolation game between Kentucky and Loyola, which the Wildcats lost,100-91).
He scored 30 points 21 times while at Kentucky and still holds the school record as the player to reach 1,000 career points the fastest (45 games).
Lofton is one of only two men to play in the World Series and the NCAA Final Four. Lofton was the backup point guard for the 1988 Arizona Wildcats that lost to Oklahoma in the semifinal game. The following season, Lofton started in the Wildcats' backcourt and led them to a Sweet 16 appearance.
The other guy to play in both the World Series and Final Four is Stoddard, a former pitcher who was in the bullpen for the 1983 World Series champion Orioles (though he didn't pitch in the postseason) and a standout on the 1974 NC State Wolfpack basketball team that defeated UCLA in the Final Four and then Marquette to win the National Championship.
Stoddard spent 13 years in MLB and maintained a 3.95 ERA. He and Lofton graduated from the same high school: East Chicago Washington High School. Small world, huh?
Long before he was elected to 12 consecutive MLB All-Star Games and then the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, Winfield was a three-sport star at the University of Minnesota. As a Golden Gopher, Winfield was a member of the 1972 NCAA Tournament team that lost to Florida State after a first-round bye.
Infamously, that '72 Gophers team is more likely remembered for brawling with Ohio State than for making the tourney.
Named to the NBA Top 50, DeBusschere is definitely remembered more for basketball than he is for his baseball career. In 36 appearances (including 10 starts) for the White Sox over the course of 1962 and '63, DeBusschere went 3-4 with a 2.90 ERA.
In college, DeBusschere led the University of Detroit Titans to the 1962 NCAA Tournament where they were bounced in the first round. It was all downhill from there, obviously, as DeBusschere only went on to make eight NBA All-Star Games, win two NBA Championships, be named to six All-Defensive teams and have his jersey number retired by the Knicks. No big deal.
Hamilton enjoyed a 12-year career in MLB as a pitcher for the Indians, Senators (Rangers), Yankees, White Sox, Giants and Cubs where he became known for his eephus pitch, the "folly floater."
But back when he was a student-athlete at Morehead State University, Hamilton excelled on the basketball court and helped the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 1956 and '57.
In 19 MLB seasons, Reed appeared in 751 games and earned one All-Star selection. He maintained a 3.46 ERA and pitched for the 1980 World Series champion Phillies.
As a young man, Reed helped the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to NCAA Tournament appearances in 1963 and '65. They lost in the first round both times, but Reed was selected in the third round of the NBA draft by the Pistons and played a few years of pro ball before focusing solely on his MLB career.
Reed was the winning pitcher the night Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record.
The Brothers Ricketts
Dave and Dick Ricketts combined to play in 142 MLB games over the course of their careers. Dick made a few appearances for the 1959 Cardinals and didn't play in the bigs again. His brother was a backup catcher on the World Series champion Cards in 1967 and again on the '68 team that won the NL pennant.
Only Dick actually appeared in the NCAA Tournament with the '52 Dukes, but both brothers were on the '55 team that won the NIT.