Starring in more than one sport is obviously not common, but it’s also not impossible. The combination of sports that have produced the most crossover is seemingly football and baseball. Bo Jackson was an All-Star in both. Deion Sanders played for a championship in both leagues. Tim Tebow is doing whatever he’s doing.
North Carolina has their own dual football/baseball star in their history. George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss only played one of them professionally. It was arguably the one he was worse at.
Stirnweiss was born in New York City. He attended Fordham Prep, where he was a three-sport star, also having a solid high school basketball career. He showed up in Chapel Hill in 1936, but had dropped basketball from his repertoire by this point.
Stirnweiss first started to make an impact on the football field in his junior year in 1938, making first team All-Southern Conference. The following season, he was also named an All-American.
He was the team’s quarterback, but his strongest attribute was his running. Stirnweiss ran for 169 yards in a 1939 game against The Citadel. In that game, he had an 86-yard touchdown, which is still one of the longest carries in school history.
In addition to being a great running quarterback, he also returned the team’s punts. Oh, and he was UNC’s own punter too. In his senior season, he was one of the better punters in the country.
His successful Tar Heel football career led the Chicago Cardinals to select Stirnweiss with the 11th pick in the 1940 NFL draft. Despite all that, Stirnweiss decided to go play baseball.
Less is known about Stirnweiss’ UNC baseball career, but it was obviously quite successful. He had a batting average of .390 in his senior year. That attracted the interest of the New York Yankees, Stirnweiss’ favorite team.
Between the interest from his hometown team, and a feeling that baseball would give him a better chance at a long career, Stirnweiss took up the Yankees’ offer. He probably made the right call.
Stirnweiss went on to have a 10-year career in baseball. He was a two-time All-Star. In both 1944 and ‘45 he finished in the top five in MVP voting. He was the league leader in several offensive categories in ‘45. Stirnweiss would go on to win three World Series with the Yankees. He ended his career after years with the St. Louis Browns and the Cleveland Indians.
Following his baseball playing career, Stirnweiss managed in the minor leagues. He later left that and held several non-sporting jobs. In 1958, he was on a commuter train headed for Manhattan when it derailed and went into the Newark Bay. He was one of 48 people killed. Stirnweiss was just 39 years old.
Snuffy Stirnweiss doesn’t quite have the distinction of playing two sports professionally. However, he was all-star level in one, and probably might have been in another.