#Shortstops: Air Jordan, Cumberland Posey and other dual threats

Written by: Ivy Houde

Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan are just a few memorable names that starred on the biggest stages in two different sports. While a handful of athletes have dominated in both football and baseball, the combo of basketball and baseball is more unconventional and historically less successful.

Many Hall of Famers excelled at the collegiate level including Dave Winfield, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. Winfield is the only Hall of Famer to also lead his collegiate hoops team, the University of Minnesota Gophers, to the NCAA Tournament.

And six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan enjoyed a short stint in the MLB with the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The Hall of Fame collection includes a bat from his time with the Birmingham Barons during the summer of 1994. Jordan, however, only played one season, before returning to the Chicago Bulls. Jordan finished his professional baseball career with a .202 batting average.

Championship caliber play in two professional sports leagues however is rare – especially on the hardwood and baseball diamond. Gene Conley, a center for the powerhouse world champion 1958-1961 Boston Celtics, also won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957. Conley did so while playing back-to-back seasons for six consecutive years, all while playing along greats like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, and guarding Wilt Chamberlain. He is among 13 athletes to have played in both the MLB and the NBA/NBL.

Being a member of both the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame is the most elite group of athletes and only one man has accomplished such a feat: Cumberland Posey. Known as the father of the Homestead Grays, Posey played a role in creating one of the greatest dynasties of Negro League baseball. At one point in time, 11 out of 18 future Negro Leagues Hall of Famers were under his management. His athletic prowess matched with his savvy business skills led the Homestead Grays to nine consecutive pennants from 1937-1945.

However, Posey got his start on the basketball court. In fact, he is regarded as one of the best basketball players of his time, despite his height of just 5-foot-4.

He played collegiately at Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and then Duquesne University, under the alias of “Charles Cumbert.” Posey was the first African-American player in school history. He has since been enshrined in Duquesne’s own Hall of Fame under his true name.

Even before his collegiate career, Posey was heavily involved with the local and national African-American basketball scene. Posey founded the Monticello Athletic Association, a semi-professional all-black basketball team. Monticello went on to win the Colored Basketball World Championship in 1912.

Acting as player, manager and businessman, Posey led the renamed Loendi Big Five to four consecutive Colored Basketball World Championships, cementing their place in history as a basketball powerhouse and solidifying Posey’s place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Posey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Ivy Houde is a 2018 membership intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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