Cotton Nash was one of 13 players to play in the NBA and MLB. Here are the other 12.
Fifty-nine years after he played his final game in Kentucky blue, Cotton Nash still ranks in the top 10 in the regal history of UK men’s basketball in both scoring (ninth with 1,770 points) and rebounding (fifth with 962 boards).
Yet that is not the only rare sports fraternity of which Nash, who died Tuesday at age 80, is a member.
According to Baseball Almanac, there have only been 13 players to play in both the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
In alphabetical order, here are the 13 players who have pulled off a rare pro sports double:
▪ Danny Ainge. The former BYU basketball star originally chose pro baseball. In three seasons (1979-81) as, mostly, a Toronto Blue Jays third baseman, Ainge didn’t hit much — .220 batting average with two career home runs and 37 RBI.
Transitioning back into basketball, the 6-foot-4, 175-pound Ainge found much more success. Playing in the NBA from 1981-95 for Boston (eight seasons), Phoenix (three), Portland (two) and Sacramento (two), Ainge averaged 11.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game.
▪ Frank Baumholtz. A major-league outfielder from 1947-57 — three years with the Reds, six with the Cubs and two with the Phillies — Baumholtz hit .290 for his career and finished second in the National League in 1952 with a .325 batting average.
A 5-10 guard in basketball, Baumholtz played one season (1946-47) with the Cleveland Rebels of the Basketball Association of America (which, after three seasons, rebranded as the National Basketball Association). He averaged 14 points, but made only 29.8 percent of his field-goal tries.
▪ Hank Biasatti. A native of Beano, Italy, Biasatti had brief “cups of coffee” in both pro baseball and basketball. He appeared in 21 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1949 as a first baseman and pinch hitter. He got two hits, both doubles, in 24 at-bats.
During the 1946-47 Basketball Association of America season, the 5-11, 175-pound guard appeared in six games for the Toronto Huskies and scored six points.
▪ Gene Conley. A 6-8, 225-pound behemoth, Conley pitched in the big leagues in 1952 and from 1954 through 1963. He played six seasons for the Braves — one year in Boston, five in Milwaukee — then two seasons with the Phillies and three with the Red Sox.
Conley went 91-96 in his career with a 3.82 ERA but appeared in four All-Star Games.
As a basketball player, the power forward played in 1952-53 with the Boston Celtics, returned to the NBA to play for the Celts from 1958 through 1961, then did a final stint with the New York Knicks from 1962-64.
Conley average 5.9 points and 6.3 rebounds for his NBA career.
▪ Chuck Connors. A first baseman, Connors spent 1949 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and 1951 with the Chicago Cubs. In his two-season career, he hit .238 with two homers and 18 RBI.
A forward/center, the 6-5, 190-pound Connors played from 1946-48 with the Boston Celtics and averaged 4.5 points while making 25.2 percent of his shots.
Once he gave up pro sports, Connors had a four-decade career in show business, most notably starring from 1958-63 as Lucas McCain in the television series “The Rifleman.”
▪ Dave DeBusschere. As a pitcher with the Chicago White Sox in 1961 and ‘62, DeBusschere appeared in 36 games and went 3-4 with a 2.90 ERA.
A 6-6, 220-pound power forward, DeBusschere built a far more impressive legacy in the NBA. Playing in the league from 1962-1974, he averaged a double-double, 16.1 ppg and 11 rpg, for his career.
After playing for the Detroit Pistons from 1962 until the middle of the 1968-69 season, DeBusschere was traded to New York midseason and became a key cog on the Knicks’ NBA championship teams in 1969 and 1973.
An eight-time All-Star, DeBusschere was also named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021-22.
▪ Dick Groat. A college basketball star at Duke, Groat had his greatest pro sports impact as a baseball shortstop. In a career that began in 1952, then ran from 1955-67, Groat played for the Pirates (1952, 1955-62), Cardinals (1963-65), Phillies (1966-67) and Giants (1967).
For his career, Groat hit .286 with 2,138 hits and 707 RBI. In 1960, he hit .325 and was named National League MVP. Groat played on two World Series championship teams, the 1960 Pirates and the 1964 Cardinals.
In basketball, Groat, a 5-11, 180-pound guard, played one season (1952-53) for the Fort Wayne Pistons and averaged 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
▪ Steve Hamilton. A Columbia, Ky., native and Morehead State alumnus, the 6-6, 190-pound Hamilton pitched in the big leagues from 1961 through 1972. He toiled for Cleveland (1961), the Washington Senators (1962), the Yankees (1963-1970), the White Sox (1970), the Giants (1971) and the Cubs (1972).
A lefty, Hamilton had a 40-31 record with a 3.05 ERA with 42 saves in his career.
In two seasons (1958-60) as a Minneapolis Lakers forward, Hamilton averaged 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds.
After his playing days, Hamilton returned to his college alma mater and coached the Morehead State baseball team for 10 seasons (230-173) before serving as the Eagles athletics director from 1988 until his death in 1997.
▪ Mark Hendrickson. A 6-9, 240-pound left-hander, Hendrickson pitched in the big leagues from 2002 through 2011, playing for Toronto (2002-03), Tampa Bay (2004-06), the L.A. Dodgers (2006-07), Florida (2008) and Baltimore (2009-2011).
He compiled a 58-74 won/loss record and a 5.03 ERA.
Prior to baseball, the Washington State grad served as an NBA power forward from 1996 through 2000. He averaged 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds while playing for Philadelphia (1996-97), Sacramento (1997-98), the Nets (1998-99, 1999-2000) and Cleveland (1999-2000).
▪ Cotton Nash. The former UK men’s hoops star was a slugging first baseman/outfielder in the minor leagues. However, in brief MLB stints with the Chicago White Sox (1967) and Minnesota Twins (1969 and ‘70), Nash logged only 16 career major-league at-bats and collected three hits and two RBI.
In his rookie season (1964-65) in the NBA, Nash averaged 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds in 45 games split between the Los Angeles Lakers (25) and the San Francisco Warriors (20).
Nash also played in the American Basketball Association. In 39 games with the Kentucky Colonels in 1967-68, Nash averaged 8.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg.
▪ Ron Reed. A Notre Dame product, the 6-6 215-pound Reed pitched in the majors from 1966 through 1984. In a career spent with Atlanta (1966-75), St. Louis (1975), Philadelphia (1976-83) and the White Sox (1984), Reed went 146-140 with a 3.46 ERA and 103 saves.
In his two seasons with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, (1965-67), Reed averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
▪ Dick Ricketts. Another pitcher/power forward, the 6-7, 215-pound Ricketts played only one season, 1959, in MLB. Pitching for the Cardinals, Ricketts appeared in 12 games, nine starts, and compiled a 1-6 record with a 5.82 ERA.
A Duquesne product, Ricketts played in the NBA from 1955 through 1958 with the St. Louis Hawks (one season) and the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals. Ricketts averaged 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in his NBA career.
▪ Howie Schultz. A 6-6, 200-pound first baseman, Schultz played in the majors from 1943 through 1948. He hit .241 with 24 homers and 208 RBI in a career spent with Brooklyn (1943-47), Philadelphia (1947-48) and Cincinnati (1948).
A basketball power forward, Schultz split his first season (1949-50) between the Anderson Packers and the Fort Wayne Pistons. After a season spent in a rival league, Schultz returned to the NBA and played for the Minneapolis Lakers from 1951 through 1953.
Schultz averaged 5.3 points and 3.1 rebounds for his NBA career.
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