YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Hardwood to Hardball

May 25, 2003|Research, Comments by HOUSTON MITCHELL and JIM RHODE | Times Staff Writers

Dave DeBusschere, the former New York Knick star and Basketball Hall of Fame member who died May 14 at 62, was an intriguing sports figure. He led his high school (Detroit's Austin Catholic) to state championships in baseball and basketball (1958), was a three-time basketball All-American at the University of Detroit (1960-62), became the youngest head coach in the NBA at 24 while also playing for the Detroit Pistons (1964), served as ABA commissioner at the time of its merger with the NBA (1976) and was the Knicks' representative at the first NBA draft lottery (1985) when the luck of the draw resulted in them getting the No. 1 pick, used to select Patrick Ewing. Here's another part of DeBusschere's legacy -- being among 11 athletes who played major league baseball and in the NBA:


6-5, 185, Brigham Young

NBA : GUARD, 1981-1994, Boston, Sacramento, Portland

CAREER: A starter on two NBA championship teams (Boston, 1984 and 1986). Scoring average: 11.8.


CAREER: Had virtually the same HR-to-AB ratio (1 to 332) as Mario Mendoza, for whom baseball's measure of batting futility, the "Mendoza Line, " was named. Batting average: .220

CLAIM TO FAME : "Oh Danny Boy", One of the Celtics' "Brash Brothers," Ainge was known for his aggressive play, constant whining to referees and on-court fights. As a baseball player, he was more of a Punch-and-Judy hitter.



5-10 1/2, 170, Ohio U.

NBA: GUARD, 1946-47 Cleveland

CAREER: Was the NBA's 10th-leading scorer in the league's first season of existence. Scoring average: 14.0

MAJOR LEAGUES: OUTFIELDER, 1947-57, Cincinnati, Chicago (NL), Philadelphia (NL)

CAREER: Was fifth in 1947 rookie-of-the-year voting to Jackie Robinson. In 1955, he set a then-NL record by playing in 76 games without an extra-base hit. Batting average: .290

CLAIM TO FAME : "One-Man Outfield", Baumholtz played center field for the Cubs between Hank Sauer and Ralph Kiner. Or as Kiner once said, "He heard the phrase 'You got it' more than any player in history."



6-8, 255, Washington State

NBA: CENTER, 1952-53, 1958-64, Boston, New York

CAREER: Hard-nosed player who was Bill Russell's backup on three NBA championship Celtic teams (1959-61). Scoring average: 5.9. Rebound average: 6.4

MAJOR LEAGUES: PITCHER, Boston (NL), Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston (AL)

CAREER: In the 1955 All-Star game, he struck out Al Kaline, Mickey Vernon and Al Rosen -- each a batting champion or runner-up -- in the 12th inning of NL win. Win-loss record: 91-96. ERA: 3.82.

CLAIM TO FAME : "Let's Fly Away", In 1962, Conley and infielder Pumpsie Green went AWOL, getting off the Red Sox bus as it was stuck in traffic during a heat wave in New York. Conley tried unsuccessfully to catch a flight to Israel. Explained Conley: "I want to be able to say that I'm the tallest guy ever to ride a camel."



6-7, 205, Seton Hall

NBA: FORWARD: 1946-48, Boston

CAREER: Still a decade away from his TV role as "The Rifleman," Connors was a scattershot for the Celtics, 24.7% from the field, 46.4% from the line. Scoring average: 4.5

MAJOR LEAGUES: FIRST BASEMAN, 1949, 51, Brooklyn, Chicago (NL)

CAREER: Played in only 67 games, hitting two homers. Or as Dodger teammate Carl Erskine said: "As a baseball player, he was a great actor." Batting average: .238

CLAIM TO FAME : "Hollywood Hotshot", The Cubs sent Connors to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League after the 1951 season, where he was discovered by Hollywood, garnering fame as the star of "The Rifleman" and "Branded."


DAVE DeBUSSCHERE: 6-6, 225, Detroit

NBA : FORWARD, 1962-1974, Detroit, New York

CAREER: Played on two NBA championship teams (New York, 1970 and 1973). Voted one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in 1996. Scoring average: 16.1 Rebound average: 11

MAJOR LEAGUES: PITCHER, 1962-63, Chicago (AL)

CAREER: On April 27, 1963, DeBusschere and another off-season NBA player, Gene Conley, pitched in the same game. Win-loss record: 3-4. ERA: 2.90

CLAIM TO FAME: "Pride of the Knicks", The consummate professional, DeBusschere's heady and skilled play and commitment to the team concept were trademarks of the Knick championship teams that made an impression on a reserve named Phil Jackson.


DICK GROAT: 6-1, 185, Duke

NBA :GUARD, 1952-53, Ft. Wayne

CAREER: Inducted into the military for two years after his lone NBA season. When his number was retired at Duke, he said, "I still consider myself a retired basketball player, not a baseball player." NBA scoring average: 11.9

MAJOR LEAGUES: SHORTSTOP, 1952-67, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Francisco

CAREER: Phillie Manager Gene Mauch said of the 1960 NL MVP: "He holds the Pirates together." Groat helped Pittsburgh to a world championship that season, and St. Louis in 1964. Batting average: .286

Los Angeles Times Articles