There is a long history of athletes playing both baseball and football. At the lower levels like high school, there’s not much overlap in seasons, making it possible to play both without issues. For some, they manage to make it all the way to college, or even the professional ranks, while still playing both.
With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, let’s take a look at some that have not only made it to high levels in both sports, but had some success. With someone taking home a football championship tomorrow, here are the Yankees from history who won a championship on the gridiron.
To this day, there is still only one player to have won both an MLB and NFL championship, and that player is Hinkey Haines.
Haines was a reserve on the Yankees’ first World Series winning team in 1923, getting one at-bat, and then appearing as a pinch-runner and scoring in the championship-clinching Game Six win.
That win would be his final ever major league game, but it turns out he was good at more than one sport, having played football in college at Penn State. Two years after his MLB career ended, the New York Giants picked him up to play tailback. Haines’ best season came in 1927, when he helped the Giants to an NFL title. He also went on to coach in the NFL, but couldn’t complete the hat trick and win one in that position.
The only major league Yankee (we’ll get to another notable name who never reached the bigs in a minute) to win a Super Bowl (the first of which was in 1967, hence why Haines doesn’t count, sorry Hinkey) is Deion Sanders.
Though he was most known for his football prowess, Sanders played that, baseball, and ran track and field at Florida State, leading him to get drafted by the Yankees in the 1988 MLB Draft. The following season he was up in the majors with them, and played two seasons in pinstripes. He left after that year, and went to the Braves.
Sanders nearly joined Haines as as a title winner in both sports when he played for the 1992 Braves. However, they lost the World Series in six games to the Blue Jays. He had to settle for his multiple Super Bowl wins and Hall of Fame gridiron career instead.
The NFL is not the only notable football championship to be won.
Jake Gibbs was the quarterback and an All-American in 1960 for Ole Miss, as they won a national championship on the college level. Despite that and getting drafted, he opted for baseball, as he had also been a college standout on the diamond in school.
Gibbs made two pinch-running appearances in 1962, but didn’t become a regular on the MLB roster until ‘65. He stuck around through ‘71, finishing with a career 81 OPS+.
Halas was part of eight NFL championship teams as either coach or owner of the Chicago Bears. He also had a very brief career as a Yankee.
Halas played basketball at the University of Illinois, and was picked up by the Yankees not long after graduating. He played in 12 games for them in 1919. The football Hall of Famer went 2-22 (both singles) with no walks, leaving him with a batting line of .091/.091/.091. That was good for a -49 OPS+. I think coaching football was more his forte.
Bonus: John Elway
Unlike everyone else on this list, Elway never played a major league game for the Yankees. Yet, his tenure with the team is arguably the most famous of any of them.
The Yankees selected Elway in the second round of the ‘81 draft and he played 42 games in the minor leagues for them in ‘82. He put up pretty good numbers, but he then also used them as leverage to change his NFL fate.
The Baltimore Colts held the #1 pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, where Elway was widely expected to be picked first. The Stanford quarterback said that he would not play for the Colts and would stick to baseball if they selected him. Baltimore did it anyway, but eventually traded him to the Broncos when Elway kept insisting that he would play for the Yankees and give up football. He did end up going with football after the trade and one legendary, championship-winning career later, he probably made the right choice.