With the last pick of the second round in the 1981 draft, the New York Yankees selected Stanford outfielder John Elway and gave him a $140,000 bonus -- more than No. 1 overall pick Mike Moore received that year. Six picks later, the San Diego Padres selected another college outfielder: future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
I'm told the NFL draft starts tonight, so I thought it would be fun to look back at where some famous NFL players were drafted ... and who their drafting teams could have had.
Elway played one season in the minors, for Class A Oneonta in 1982, hitting .318/.432/.464 with four home runs in 151 at-bats and more walks (28) than strikeouts (25). He'd end up using the leverage of a potential baseball career to demand a trade from the Baltimore Colts after they drafted him first overall in 1983. Was he a legitimate baseball prospect? Probably, although George Steinbrenner's comparisons of Elway to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle were certainly far-fetched.
Elway obviously made the right choice to stick with football. So did Tom Brady. The Montreal Expos drafted him in the 18th round out of high school in 1995, listing him as a catcher. Which makes sense given his lack of foot speed. He didn't sign and instead went to Michigan and things worked out pretty well for him. If the Expos had wanted a catcher, they could have drafted David Ross, taken in the 19th round by the Dodgers and still kicking 21 years later. Ross ended up not signing and attended Florida; the Dodgers re-drafted him three years later in the seventh round.
Here are some other names:
Wilson played two years in the minors as a second baseman while still in college, hitting .230 and .228 without much power. The Rockies made a better pick in the eighth round, when they selected Corey Dickerson. But if they'd wanted to draft a college infielder with a good arm, they could have drafted a Stetson shortstop named Jacob deGrom, who went in the ninth round to the Mets and then converted full time to pitching.
Dan Marino: fourth round, Kansas City Royals (1979)
A pitcher from Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Marino didn't sign. The best pick in the fifth round was the Yankees' selection of shortstop Greg Gagne, who had a 15-year career and helped the Twins win two World Series. The Royals also drafted Elway this year, in the 18th round. So they had the greatest NFL draft ever!
John Lynch: second round, Florida Marlins (1992)
The nine-time Pro Bowl safety was the second player the Marlins ever drafted, behind catcher Charles Johnson. The right-handed pitcher from Stanford spent parts of two seasons in the minors before heading to the NFL after getting drafted in the third round in 1993. Lynch was the 66th overall pick, although nobody in the ensuing picks made a significant impact until sixth-rounder Jose Vidro, drafted 155th overall by the Expos. Lynch wasn't alone in not reaching the majors from the initial Marlins draft class: Only Johnson and 25th-round pitcher Andy Larkin made the bigs.
Jay Schroeder: first round, Toronto Blue Jays (1979)
A catcher from Pacific Palisades, California, Schroeder was the third overall pick, drafted after the Mariners took Al Chambers (oops) and the Mets selected Tim Leary (better). The Jays were big on drafting multi-sport stars at this time, having also drafted Danny Ainge in 1977. Schroeder did play baseball full time but also played football at UCLA; not sure how he pulled that off. The Jays tried him at outfield, third base and catcher but he hit .213 in four minor-league seasons with a lot of strikeouts and gave up baseball when the Redskins drafted him. Players drafted in the top 10 in 1979: Andy Van Slyke and Tim Wallach.
Ken Stabler: second round (January phase), Houston Astros (1968)
The draft had different rules back then and Stabler had been drafted twice previously by the Yankees and Mets. The Astros took him in the January phase and he never signed, but later in that round the Giants took high school outfielder Garry Maddox, who would accumulate 36.7 WAR in the majors and win eight Gold Gloves.
Condredge Holloway: first round, Montreal Expos (1971)
Who? Only one of the greatest players in Canadian Football League history, a member of the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was drafted fourth overall as a shortstop in 1971 and baseball was his first love. But he was 17, too young to sign a contract under Alabama state law, and his mother refused to sign for him, insisting he go to college. Holloway went to Tennessee and became the first black quarterback to start in the SEC. He also played baseball but never played professionally. Who could the Expos have drafted? Well, Jim Rice went to the Red Sox with the 15th pick and George Brett and Mike Schmidt went 29th and 30th overall.
Ricky Williams: eighth round, Philadelphia Phillies (1995)
The 1998 Heisman winner played four seasons of minor-league ball as an outfielder, hitting .211 with four home runs in 170 games. Baseball is hard. Four picks after the Phillies drafted Williams, the Mets selected A.J. Burnett (he was traded for Al Leiter before reaching the majors).
Bo Jackson: second round, New York Yankees (1982)
Of course, Bo later had a baseball career but he didn't sign with the Yankees out of high school. The next pick? Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, by the Reds ... although he didn't sign either. (The Reds would draft him again three years later.) Earlier in that round, the Yankees took Tim Birtsas. Two picks later, the Giants took Barry Bonds (he didn't sign either). Moral of the story: Baseball teams were tightwads in 1982.