“I’m married to football, baseball is my girlfriend.” — Deion Sanders, in a 1989 Sports Illustrated cover story
Deion Sanders will always be one of my favorite athletes of all-time. I got hooked when I saw the Jheri-curl wearing, high-stepping, trash-talking No. 21 doing his thing for the Atlanta Falcons. I’d never seen anything like him before, and although there are some phenomenal cornerbacks that have emerged after Primetime, I would wager that we’ll never see another like him again.
Of course, there was that other career that Deion Sanders had that was just as intriguing. Baseball.
On the diamond, Sanders flashed so much potential as a leadoff hitter, base stealer and defensive dynamo that the powers that be couldn’t help but to salivate. If Sanders were playing today, he might be MLB’s most popular player and would have kids heading to The Baseball Stop to get their gear upgraded constantly.
He had so much potential that teams kept ponying up for his services even if he’d only play a handful of games before taking his talents back to the NFL for training camp. However, if your favorite baseball team was lucky enough, he’d play both sports at the same damn time and rack up all of the frequent flyer miles in the process.
In an interview/signing session with Panini America (formerly Donruss) at his home, Sanders was asked about his thoughts when he signs one of his old baseball cards. “Regrets,” are something we all have, but it’s different when you’re talented enough to go play a full 60 minutes on the football field, then hop on a helicopter and go play that evening in Game Five of the NLCS for Braves vs. Pirates. Deion was real on the baseball field (most notably) for leading the league in triples in ’92 (14) and finishing second in steals in the ’94 (38) and ’97 (56).
It reminds of Deion’s advice to eventual No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray on SportsCenter, who chose the Arizona Cardinals instead of the Oakland A’s. It’s the type of advice only a man who went through both experiences can give.
“Life won’t allow him to. This game won’t allow him to at his position (quarterback). If I was in his shoes, I’m picking up the baseball bat and I’m not looking back.” — Deion Sanders on Kyler Murray’s choice on football versus baseball
Check the video of Deion spitting the personal gospel, as I ask a question….how good would Prime have been if he’d only played baseball for his entire career? Otis Nixon, the former Braves teammate and ex-husband of Juanita Leonard (Sugar Ray’s ex) and Pebbles Reid (L.A. Reid’s ex), made the ultimate proclamation to Sports Illustrated about Prime Time:
“If he had taken off that football uniform and said, I’m going all the way in to play Major League Baseball. Deion Sanders would have been in the Hall of Fame. I know that for a fact.”
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