TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO CINCINNATI, OHIO IN 2001 –
What if Deion Sanders only played baseball? He decided to give baseball another try on this date in 2001. As the story goes, he was invited to spring training by the Cincinnati Reds. General Manager Jim Bowden gave the 2-sport star a non-guaranteed minor league contract to play for the Triple-A Louisville Riverbats.
The Washington Redskins‘ all-pro cornerback hadn’t played major league baseball in three years. Sanders played 115 games in the outfield for the Reds in 1997, hitting .273 with 56 stolen bases, 53 runs scored and 23 RBI, but he was 29 then. He was 33 in 2001.
Sanders made it up to the Reds for 32 games in 2001, but he hit just .173 in seventy-five at-bats. That was the end of his baseball career.
The debate that will never end is, how good a baseball player would Deion Sanders have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively.
In a 9-year major league baseball career with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Reds and San Francisco Giants Sanders played in 641 games, hitting .263 with a .319 on base percentage, but he was most known for his speed. He had 186 stolen bases, which average out to 47 per year.
His only World Series was an impressive one. He hit .533 (8 for 15) and had five stolen bases for the Braves in the 1992 World Series which was won by the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanders gave whichever baseball team he played for instant speed.
He had a more productive football career – eight time all-pro and played on two Super Bowl winning teams.
The debate that will never be answered is, how good a baseball player would he have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively. He knew which was more challenging when asked by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2000:
Q – What’s tougher: hitting off Greg Maddux or guarding Jerry Rice?
A – “Hitting a baseball is definitely the hardest thing in sports to do, not only for me but for a lot of guys, but guarding Jerry Rice isn’t easy either. I just make it look easy.”
Sanders was an exceptional athlete. We’ll never know how could exceptional a baseball player he could have been had he only played baseball.