When Major League Baseball struck with Ken Stabler

On January 27, 1968, the Houston Astros used the 24th pick in the Major League Baseball draft against pitcher Ken Stabler. On January 30, 1968, the Oakland Raiders used the 52nd pick in the NFL/AFL Draft against quarterback Ken Stabler.

“The club understands that Stabler has not decided to play professional football or professional baseball,” the Astros general manager said. Spec Richardson said at the time. “We hope, of course, that he chooses baseball. He told us, frankly, that whoever offered the most money would get it.





Stabler signed a two-year contract with the Raiders in March 1968, ending the left-handed pitcher’s major league pursuit that included three appearances in the baseball draft.

This year’s three-day MLB draft begins at 6 p.m. CDT on Sunday. This will be baseball’s 58th summer draft.

While three MLB teams drafted Stabler, professional baseball interest in him predated the draft. Baseball held its first freshman draft on June 8–9, 1965. Prior to that, amateur players could sign with any team they chose.

“When I was 17” stabler said Sports Illustrated in 1977, “The Pittsburgh Pirates offered me $50,000 to sign. But then I learned to love football. And I wanted to play for Coach Bryant.

“If there hadn’t been sports, I wouldn’t have gone to university. My dad was a garage mechanic up to Foley, and I would have followed him, I’m sure. I went to college to play football, not to study. Maybe it was wrong, but that’s how it was. I always wanted to play professional ball, and I did.

A three-sport star at Foley High School, Stabler had nine throwing victories as a senior in 1964, when he had five shutouts and retired 125.

Stabler first appeared in the draft in 1966, when, in baseball’s second summer draft, the New York Yankees picked him with the 190th pick in June.

By then, Stabler had been playing his first college season at Alabama under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America declared the Crimson Tide the national champion for the 1965 season, when Stabler was Steve Sloan’s backup at quarterback.

When drafted by the Yankees, Stabler was also coming off his only appearances for the Alabama baseball team. He went 1-1 in four games with a 1.44 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 25 innings during the 1966 season.

Negotiations with New York did not deter Stabler from returning to the Crimson Tide football team, which won all 11 games in 1966.

But MLB teams weren’t deterred either, and the New York Mets picked Stabler with the 155th pick in the January 1967 draft. (Big leagues drafted in January and June through 1986. )

Like the Yankees, the Mets hit with Stabler. He returned to Alabama to play football, finishing his college career as an All-SEC quarterback for a Crimson Tide team that went 8-2-1 in 1967.

The Astros took baseball’s final blow by signing Stabler after selecting him before future MLB All-Star slugger George Foster and eight-time Gold Glove center fielder Garry Maddox left the roster.

“I had no preference between baseball and football until I found out I was going to the Raiders,” stabler said the Oakland Tribune in a 1968 article. “I’m really glad Oakland got me. In my opinion, they are the best team in the AFL and I like playing in a winning team.

Stabler has won a lot with Oakland.

Taking over from Daryle Lamonica, Stabler rallied the Raiders to lead in the 1972 AFC Championship Game, only for Oakland to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the immaculate reception.

But for the next five seasons, the Raiders played the AFC title game with Stabler at center, and Oakland beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977.

Stabler won the NFL MVP Award for the 1974 season and the Bert Bell Award as league player of the year for the 1976 season.

In Stabler’s seven seasons as a Raiders starter, Oakland compiled a 68-25-1 record with the Snake on their way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Stabler isn’t the only future high school or college pro football player in Alabama good enough at baseball to be picked in the MLB Draft. Others have included:

· David Ray, Alabama: The 67th selection in the January 1966 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Athletics as a right-handed pitcher, Ray was also selected in the 16th round of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. The former Central-Phenix City standout appeared in six NFL seasons as a kicker and led the league with 30 field goals and 130 points for the Los Angeles Rams in 1973.

· Condredge Holloway, Lee High School in Huntsville: Fourth selection in the June 1971 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos, Holloway went to Tennessee to play quarterback for the Volunteers, although the players chosen from either side of received him $50,000 bonuses to sign with major league teams. Starting in his three college seasons, Holloway guided Tennessee to a 25-9-2 record, but that didn’t get him drafted into the NFL until the 306th pick in 1975. New England Patriots wanted him to play defensive back. , so Holloway went to the Canadian Football League. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Bo Jackson, McAdory High School at McCalla and Auburn: The 50th selection in the June 1982 MLB draft by the New York Yankees as a shortstop, Jackson was selected one spot ahead of future shortstop of Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Instead of signing with the Yankees, Jackson went to Auburn, where he was a two-time All-American running back and a Heisman Trophy winner in 1985. That didn’t stop baseball from being interested, though. The California Angels used the 511th pick on outfielder Bo Jackson in the June 1985 draft. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked Jackson with the No. 1 pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Royals shrewdly selected him at No. 105 in the June 1986 draft. Angry with the Bucs over a plane trip to Tampa that made him ineligible to play baseball at Auburn, Jackson signed with the Royals, spent eight seasons in the major leagues and played in the 1989 MLB All-Star Game. But Jackson also played football, joining the Los Angeles Raiders after they took him to 183rd overall in the draft of the NFL in 1987. Jackson played four overlapping seasons between MLB and NFL until a hip injury ended his football career.

· Frank Sanders, Auburn: The 385th selection in the June 1994 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners as an outfielder, Sanders was also selected in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. In nine NFL seasons, Sanders caught 507 passes for 6,749 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has more receiving yards in the NFL than any other Auburn alumnus.

Jameis Winston, Hueytown High School: The 486th selection in the June 2012 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers as center fielder, Winston opted to go to Florida State instead. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, when he led the Seminoles to a 34-31 win over Auburn in the BCS National Championship game. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston is coming back from a knee injury as he prepares to play quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in the 2022 season.


Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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