There were a lot of great card “twists” of the 1960s and 70s but one twist was there seemed to be far fewer two sport athletes in those decades than there was in the late 1940s and all during the 1950s. The concept returned with a big bang when Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson both played baseball and football at the same time back in the late 1980s. While Bo and Deion were well known in both sports, there were other two sport guys during the hobby boom period (Brian Jordan, anyone?).
Any player who played baseball and another sport on a professional level was very unusual during the 1960s. Some two sport athletes such as Dean Look and Tom Yewcic had such short careers they had no cards during that era for either sport. There were a few who did have some cards, though. As is our wont, this is not meant to be a comprehensive rundown of every two sport athlete so we’re not going to go into any depth on guys like Jackie Jensen or Dick Groat who lasted into the 60s but were better known for their two sport prowess in the ‘50s.
The first player to discuss had a Hall of Fame basketball career but first became known to collectors through baseball. Growing up in the New York area, we were graced as Knicks fans to see Dave DeBusschere as a key cog of the first and only Knicks team to win an NBA title. Once the Knicks traded fellow Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy for him, their team transitioned into a mini-dynasty over the next six or seven seasons. DeBusschere was a pitcher for the White Sox who had a few baseball cards, beginning with his 1963 Topps rookie card. At one point, the Chicago White Sox kept him on their roster instead of Denny McLain due to an interesting quirk in the bonus rules of that time. We can imagine how different baseball history might have been if McLain had not gone to the Tigers and if DeBusschere had stayed with baseball.
There’s actually a variation on that 1963 Topps multi player rookie card, as you can see with the photo on the right. The first printing mistakenly labeled the card “1962 Rookie Stars”. It was later corrected to “1963”.
DeBusschere did have two more baseball cards before his basketball card debut when Topps returned to that world beginning with their 1969-70 set. Yes, DeBusschere has two rookie cards in two different sports—six years apart (you can see all of his cards on eBay here).
Perhaps the second most famous of the 1960s multi sport athlete was Tom Brown, who was a starting defensive back for the Green Bay Packers when their won the first two Super Bowls. Brown has some reasonably available oddball cards but did not appear on a Philadelphia Gum or Topps football card during his career. However, before he transitioned to football, he was a first baseman for the Washington Senators. He also, like most of the Senators of that time, did not have much success on the field and so the move to the Packers paid off for him.
Brown is on a 1964 Topps baseball card but I’m still stumped as to why he did not end up with at least one football card from a major manufacturer. I suppose it had to do with the fact that Philly Gum sets contained less than 200 cards, only about 150 of which actually featured players. You can buy a very nice example of Brown’s lone baseball card for around five bucks.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Panini or Topps created a set for the 50th Super Bowl with cards of every starter in every one of those games? I’d buy one—and it could certainly be an ongoing ‘living’ set with updates issued every year in other products.
Our next player on our tour is Norm Bass. Norm came from a great athletic family. If you followed football in the 60s, you’ll probably remember getting cards of his brother Dick who was a star running back for the Los Angeles Rams for many years. Norm’s career wasn’t as long but did play both in the American League and in the American Football League. Norm has a 1962 Topps card that was also part of the ‘Green Tint’ variation subset. He’s also in the 1963 set, in the challenging semi high series (see his baseball cards here). Unfortunately, there is no football card of Norm’s brief AFL experience.
And for our brief tour we’ll conclude with one of my stories—and favorite names. Cotton Nash is one of five 1960s major leaguers to have played both in the NBA and major league baseball during the decade (DeBusschere, Gene Conley, Ron Reed, Steve Hamilton and Nash).
The other players on the list all have plenty of cards but Cotton only has one card issued by a major manufacturer, one he shares with Steve Brye, who played several years in the big leagues. You can own it for around a buck.
I would wager while a few people are buying that card because of his great Kentucky basketball career, most are just filling out their 1971 Topps set.