1987 Topps Bo Jackson
Within a span of six years, three big two-sport stars popped who crossed the line between Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Jackson was the most talented of the trio and was seen as an All-Star/All-Pro caliber player in both the NFL and MLB. I think the highlight that best defined Bo Jackson was his lead off home run in the 1989 All-Star game.
The All-Star game home run catapulted Jackson's fame as a two-sport star and also brought attention to another rising two-sport star breaking into Major League baseball with the Yankees. Deion Sanders was a great football player. He was never really that great at baseball, but at the peak of his career in baseball he was at least average. Deion was a little bit more flamboyant than Bo Jackson. Where are the videos of the touchdown dance? Silly NFL. Link to (S)cam Newton doing the dance.
1990 Leaf Deion Sanders
Sanders was also the longest running of the two-sport stars, but he took several seasons off from baseball along the way basically missing out on three years of his career. While Bo Jackson had a career ending football injury that also limited his baseball abilities, Sanders always seemed a little bit lost on the baseball field.
The last of the three two-sport stars from my time in collecting is outfielder/safety Brian Jordan. BJ was not in the majors while he was a professional football player and the Cardinals paid Jordan a 1.7 million dollar bonus in 1992 to quit the Falcons and only play baseball. Many point to the Bo Jackson injury as a precautionary tale with the two-sport players and the Cardinals obviously wanted to protect their investment in Jordan.
1992 Topps Traded Brian Jordan
Since the Cardinals bought out Brian Jordan out of playing football there have not been any active Major League Baseball players moonlighting in another sport. While several players like Todd Helton, Seth Smith, or Darin Erstad have been good college football players, they are often given the choice by the teams owning their rights to either quit baseball or quit football. Rickey Williams, of NFL fame, was a minor leaguer in the Phillies organization, but gave up baseball after the Saints drafted him out of the University of Texas. Others like Chad Hutchinson, Brandon Weeden, and Drew Henson started off in one league and then changed their minds.
Basically, all of these players are pretty collectable. There are plenty of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders collectors floating around and the other multi-sport athletes have their moments too. I had a Brandon Weeden Bowman Autograph in my collection for several years. He was kind of a nobody, but got hot going back to college at Okie State. Autograph card sold. Thank you.
On the Field-
Jackson had the greatest impact of the big three two-sport stars when he was healthy and on the field. At the height of his playing career he was an All-Star caliber player for the Royals made plays that baseball fans ha never seen. My favorite beyond the All-Star game home run was the running catch he made...
I am not quite sure what Deion's highlight as a baseball player would be. He did play for the Braves in the early 90s and did pop up in a few important games, but really had very little impact on any of the games. Living in St. Louis I got to see Deion several times and the only thing about Deion that sticks out in my mind was him wearing his socks up for the 1997 season for Jackie Robinson. Nice gesture.
Really, Jordan ended up having the greatest impact of the trio. By greatest impact I mean that Jordan was an above average player for a good portion of his playing career. In fact, as a Cardinals fan I am not sure the team would have made it to the National League Championship series without his help. Jordan a clutch home run against Padres closer Trevor Hoffman to close out the NLDS against the Padres and was the real run producer of that team before the picked up Mark McGwire the next season.
Jordan also played a longer time than Jackson and Sanders putting together a 15 year career. His career OPS+ of 105 does not look that great, but his last three season were all in the 60s. His career OPS is jut slightly below .800 with his last three seasons been consistently in the .630s. Baseball-Reference has is comparable batter in the latter stages of his career as Raul Ibanez, but then his last three years he turns into Melvin Mora. In other words, Jordan just hung around a little too long.
Jordan's real importance to the game though was that he was the first two-sport player to have a line drawn in the sand, which still seems to exist today. You can football, you can play baseball, but you cannot play both at the same time.
A 90s classic.
1990 Score Bo Jackson