All-’80s Baseball Hoops Team

It’s NCAA Basketball tournament time and that can mean only one thing: Baseball!

Not only were the ‘80s a great decade for baseball, you could make a pretty solid hoops team from guys who played baseball in the 1980s. Here’s our team:

Point Guard: Tony Gwynn

Not only was Tony Gwynn one of the top hitters in baseball history, he was also a pretty good hoopster. Tony actually skipped the baseball season in his freshman year at San Diego State to focus on basketball. During his time at SDSU he set the single game, single season and career assist record and in addition to being drafted by the Padres, he was also selected by the San Diego Clippers in the NBA Draft.

Shooting Guard: Danny Ainge

This is a pretty easy selection. Danny didn’t hit much in his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he did OK once he switched to basketball full-time. He finished his career with nearly 12,000 points, more than 4,000 assists and two NBA championships. He also authored one of the great moments in NCAA tournament history.

Small Forward: Ron Reed

Reed’s path was the opposite of Danny Ainge. After a standout career at Notre Dame, the 6-5 Reed was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1965 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent two season in the NBA, scoring just shy of 1,000 points. Before Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, Reed was playing two professional sports at the same time. After finishing the 1966 NBA season, he pitched in two games for the Braves and went back to the Pistons.

Power Forward: Dave Winfield

Winfield was just a phenomenal athlete. In addition to being a Hall of Fame baseball player, he was also a stud basketball player at the University of Minnesota. Over the course of his career, he averaged 10.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and was drafted by both the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA. Had he chosen the ABA, he could have teamed up with Moses Malone to form a pretty solid frontcourt.

Center: Tim Stoddard

Stoddard won a state title in high school, where he teamed up with future NBA player Junior Bridgeman, and then went to N.C. State where he teamed up with David Thompson and won an NCAA title by knocking off Bill Walton and UCLA. Not too shabby.

6th Man: Frank Howard

OK, Frank Howard was a coach in 1980, but he was also an incredibly talented basketball player. Howard went to Ohio State where he was an All-American in baseball and basketball in the 1950s. In a holiday tournament at Madison Square Garden, Howard once grabbed 32 rebounds in a single game.  In addition to being drafted to play major league baseball, he also was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors, which means he and Wilt Chamberlain could have potentially been twin towers in the NBA, predating Sampson and Olajuwon by decades.

Moonlighting – Starring Ozzie Smith

Bruce-CybillBefore there was Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd there was Ozzie Smith. While there may be no truth to the rumor that the hit TV show was based on the exploits of the future Hall-of-Fame shortstop, it is indeed a fact that in the summer of 1980, Ozzie Smith was looking for a second gig.

Smith made some bad investments and was on the hook for some serious money. An Associated Press story claimed Smith owed more than $100,000 in unsecured debts and “must find extra income quickly.”

According to Peter Gammons in the Boston Globe, the “bad investments” amounted to Smith possibly living beyond his means by purchasing a house and a Mercedes Benz on his salary of around $72,000 per season.

“You know once a ball player reaches the big leagues, he starts to live differently — like a movie star,” Smith told the Christian Science Monitor. “Certain things are expected of you, and you kind of get caught up in a more expensive life.”

Coming off a 1979 campaign which began with an 0-32 streak and ended with a .211 batting average, Smith asked the Padres for a raise and they declined. But Ozzie still had bills to pay. Like many Americans who need extra cash, he decided to get a second job.

Smith took out a Position Wanted ad in the San Diego Union seeking a part-time job to help him get over the hump financially. He also was considering asking the Padres for about a month off in June and July so he could go to Europe and compete in the Tour De France. Smith’s agent Ed Gottlieb told the media Ozzie had an offer to earn between $25,000 and $100,000 for “competition in Europe.”

Needless to say, the Padres weren’t thrilled about the idea, but Joan Kroc did have an offer. The wife of the Padres owner Ray Kroc told Smith he was welcome to be an assistant gardener on the Kroc Estate. According to Mrs. Kroc, the position came complete with the blessing of the head gardener Luis Torres, in part because Smith was his favorite player.

Fortunately for Ozzie his advertising campaign proved to be a rousing success. He received at least a dozen legitimate offers according to Gottlieb and eventually settled on a job with a Los Angeles company that paid him at least $500 per week plus commission and it didn’t involve picking up a shovel.