Baseball is an all-encompassing sport, because by the time you get to Major League Baseball there are 162 games during the year and potentially as many as 20 more in the postseason. Once at the highest level of the game, the grind takes its toll and few players who are associated with the game are known for anything else in their lives. Bob Uecker was briefly an actor on the TV series Mr. Belvedere, but everyone still knows him as one of the best baseball announcers in history. Heck, Jim Bunning was a Senator from Kentucky and was still more famous as one of the few pitchers to throw a perfect game. This list encompasses personalities associated with baseball, but not known for baseball.
10. Matt White
In 2007, minor league pitcher Matt White purchased a plot of land from his elderly Aunt for $50,000. When having the property appraised, a surveyor found a 24 million ton mica schist rock deposit on his land. The rock had an estimated $2,000,000,000 in value, not including the cost to get the rock excavated and to the market. White only played in a handful of Major League games for the Red Sox, Mariners, and Nationals, before heading overseas to try his hand in Japan and Taiwan. Now working his property, the man his teammates once called “the Billionaire” has his rock quarry on the real estate market.
9. Fidel Castro
You might have heard of this guy. He ran the island nation of Cuba for nearly 50 years before succumbing to the steely clutches of old age. Right after taking power in Cuba, one of Castro’s first orders of business was to underwrite the debt of the Havana Cuba Sugar Kings in the International League. Castro always believed a strong Cuba had its roots in a strong baseball tradition. But Castro doesn’t make this list based on his work with the Sugar Kings, but because for 60 years, there has been a nagging and persistent rumor that a team in Major League Baseball rejected Castro’s baseball tryout, thusly forcing him to take over Cuba. (Much like Hitler’s failed attempt at Art School drove him to rule Germany and try his hand at world domination.) According to multiple baseball historians, Castro was never even considered a big league prospect. Castro played in exhibition matches throughout Cuba, but part of his pitching success was due to, well, a “generous strike zone” accorded to Fidel by the Umpires.
8. Brad Lesley
Brad Lesley was a borderline Major Leaguer who posted a career 1 Win 3 Loss record in a 4 year career with the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers. Like so many others, Lesley tried to re-ignite his career in Japan where he pitched slightly better for the Hankyu Braves. Lesley then parlayed his trip to Japan into a character called the “Animal” on the Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle. Moving back to the United States, Lesley had a few bit parts in American movies before passing away in 2013 at the age of 54. TV junkies will recognize him from Spike TV’s hilarious Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, MXC for short, the series where comedians overdub American jokes over the Japanese content.
7. Kazuhito Tadano
Tadano graduated from Rikkyo University in Japan in 2002. A highly sought after pitching prospect, no team in the Japanese leagues drafted him. Why you ask? Due to the revelation that Kazuhito had appeared in a gay porn during his college days. As a young free agent, Tadano signed with the Cleveland Indians and quickly rose through their farm system to the majors. Tadano’s career seemed on his way when the Cleveland media caught wind as to why such a successful Japanese pitcher made it to American without being drafted and Tadano had to relive the scandal all over again in another country. Despite his teammates support, the Indians later traded Tadano to the Oakland Athletics. After scuffling a few more seasons in the Athletics organization, he was back to the Japanese leagues with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. As time passed, his talent seems to have overcome anything that may have happened in college. His final Win-Loss record in America was 12-13, not nearly reflective of the skills that the pitcher possessed.
6. Randy “Macho Man” Savage
Arguably one of the most famous (and charismatic) wrestlers in the entire history of the WWE, a young Randy Poffo struggled through 4 seasons of his late teens scrapping his way through the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, then ended his baseball career in the Cincinnati Reds system at the tender age of 21. It was during that 1973 offseason that Poffo was looking for some extra cash and decided to wrestle with his father and brother. Soon the “Macho Man” Randy Savage was born and he became one of the premiere wrestlers in the fledgling International Championship Wrestling association (which, incidentally, was owned by his father). Within a decade, Savage had signed with the World Wrestling Federation and the rest is WrestleMania history. Before his death in 2011, Savage was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, but according to a Sports Illustrated article eulogizing his life, his job was that of wrestler, but his dream was to play in Major League Baseball.
5. Dave DeBusschere
Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Dave DeBusschere started his career in Major League Baseball in 1962 for the Chicago White Sox. Compiling a 3-4 record over 2 seasons with the White Sox, DeBusschere hung up his cleats to concentrate on being the player/coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. In 1968, DeBusschere was traded to the New York Knicks, where as a player only, he won 2 NBA Championships and appeared on 6 consecutive NBA All-Defensive teams. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and his #22 was retired by the New York Knicks. DeBusschere’s stature rose even after his playing days, becoming the last commissioner of the American Basketball Association before the merger with the NBA.
4. Rush Limbaugh
Conservative Talk Show host extraordinaire Rush Limbaugh was fired over a half dozen times at the beginning of his radio career. Not only was he fired over and over, there was a point in his life where he couldn’t get a single job in radio. Apparently Limbaugh really does have the gift of gab, because when no radio station would hire him, he landed a job with the Kansas City Royals as their Director of Promotions. Not one of their minor league affiliates, mind you, but the Kansas City Royals, where for 5 years he formed multiple life-long friendships in the Royals organization. Then, in 1984, he left the Royals to return to radio, this time as a replacement to the controversial Morton Downey Jr. (imagine a young Rush as the less controversial radio choice). Ironically in 2003, Rush Limbaugh was hired as a sports commentator for ESPN- for football. Within weeks, Limbaugh resigned, right before ESPN could fire him. At least Rush had his $400 million radio contract signed in 2008 to fall back on.
3. Deion Sanders / Bo Jackson
This one is for the young people. After taking an informal, non-scientific poll, everyone I know over 40 years of age said that Sanders and Jackson are two of the greatest 2 sport-athletes in the history of American sport. Those under 40 seemed confused by my questioning, Jackson and Sanders were football players. One dense teen even went so far as to explain to me that the Leon Sandcastle twitter campaign proved that Sanders was a football player. So listen close kiddies, Deion Sanders is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a cornerback. The reason he played on 5 different NFL teams is because he didn’t like to tackle and because playing on 4 different MLB teams (Yankees, Braves, Reds, Giants), being an average outfielder, ate up a lot of his time. Sanders can be found nowadays as a commentator for the NFL Network.
Bo Jackson, on the other hand, could have been the greatest of his generation in either sport if he had just picked one. He played with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders between 1987-1990 and averaged a mind-boggling 5.4 yards per carry. At the same time, Jackson played with the Kansas City Royals and was voted to the MLB All-Star game in 1989. A catastrophic hip injury in 1991 ended his football career and severely crippled his baseball career. But even with an artificial hip, Jackson bounced around multiple MLB teams. Who could forget the “Bo Knows” Nike commercial campaign that made Jackson a household name in multiple countries?
2. Chuck Connors
Back in the early days of American sports, athletes had to get off-season jobs to supplement their team incomes and Chuck Connors was no different. While still in the armed services, Chuck Connors began playing in the National Basketball League in 1946 and led the Rochester Royals to the championship. Despite hooking up with the Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America (later the NBA), Connors felt his fortune was in baseball. After bouncing around the minor leagues and playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and the Chicago Cubs in 1951, Connors realized he wasn’t going to make any money in baseball either. Connors was cast in his first movie in 1952 and in 1958 landed the role of a lifetime as “the Rifleman.” The Rifleman was on the air for 5 years, 168 episodes, and was one of the top rated Westerns of the late 1950’s. With his legacy set as Lucas McCain, Connors continued to act right up until a year before his death in 1992.
1. Danny Ainge
Currently Ainge is the General Manager of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Probably his most well-known accomplishment was becoming executive of the year during the 07-08 season for trading a sack full of magic beans to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett and then stealing (figuratively) Ray Allen from the Seattle Supersonics. Those moves directly led to the Celtics’ 2008 NBA title. Ainge’s playing career also included two Celtic titles in the mid-80’s as he played for 14 years for the NBA’s Celtics, Kings, Trailblazers, and Suns. All of which are impressive marks on a resume, especially considering that the 6’5” Ainge first broke into professional sports with Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. Ainge had a career batting average of .220 and played second base for 3 seasons with the Blue Jays in his early 20’s after being a 3-Sport All American in high school and winning the John R. Wooden Award at Brigham Young University.