Kyler Murray is about the closest thing we have to a legitimate two-sport athlete today. The Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender was selected with the ninth pick in this year’s baseball draft by the Athletics. However, even with his success on the football field, he will report to Oakland in 2019 and presumably only play baseball from here on out.
Nearly 100 years ago, one Yankee pulled off the reverse.
After serving in World War I, Hinkey Haines became a star athlete at Penn State in the early 1920s. He played on the baseball, football, and basketball teams, all to some degree of success. Haines mainly excelled at the first two sports. He was noticed by the Yankees, who signed him after his college career.
Haines spent the next two seasons in the minors, before getting the call up during the 1923 season. He got just 30 plate appearances in 28 games, as many of his chances came as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. His speed was renowned at Penn State, and he did go 3-for-4 on stolen base attempts.
However, his biggest moment came in October.
After coming up short the two previous World Series, the Yankees made it back for a third straight in 1923. Haines came off the bench in Game Three and went 0-for-1 as the Yankees lost to go down 2-1 in the series. By Game Six, things has swung back the other direction. Two straight wins saw the Yankees take a 3-2 lead.
Going into the eighth inning, the Yankees were trailing 4-1. A couple of singles and a walk then gave them a golden chance to get back in the game. Haines was sent in to pinch run for pitcher Fred Hoffman, who had walked to load the bases. After two more walks, Haines scored the tying run on Bob Meusel’s three-run single. The Yankees ended the inning up 6-4, and held on to win the game and the series for their first ever championship.
While he continued playing in the minors, the 1923 season would be the only major league season for Haines. From 1924 to 1934, he played for a variety of minor leagues on the east coast.
Throughout his early minor league career and major league stint, Haines had played football during the offseason in fall. He had done so mainly for various independent teams in the northeast. By 1925, the NFL had established itself as the premier league. That same year, the New York Giants came into existence. The Giants made a splash, bringing in Haines as one of their highest paid players.
The Giants went 8-4 in their debut season, and Haines became one of their main draws, basically playing at quarterback, or whatever amounted to quarterback in 1925. He scored the first touchdown in Giants’ history.
The following year, the Giants put in another good season, going 8-4-1. However in 1927, Haines led the Giants to their first championship in team history. He scored crucial kick return and rushing touchdowns in the final two games of the season, helping the Giants to a championship-clinching 11-1-1 record.
Haines would play another season with the Giants, before ending his football career with the Staten Island Stapletons. (Yes, they were an NFL team. The early years of the NFL are weird.) His baseball career would actually outlast his football career, despite getting much more recognition on the football field.
While he’s nowhere near as famous as other dual-sport athletes like Bo Jackson, Hinkey Haines played on the first championship teams for two extremely famous franchises. That counts for something.