Jack Nicklaus is widely considered to be the greatest golfer of all time, but the Golden Bear insists he is not a one-trick pony. During a recent interview for a feature called “Words From the Wise” from Golf Digest, Nicklaus talked about his passion for baseball. Like golf, he says baseball is a game he was pretty damn good at.
“If I never had gotten into golf, I think I’d have been a baseball player,” Nicklaus said. “My first love was baseball. I was a catcher. I was a good, strong hitter — a switch hitter — with a good arm. But baseball was a sport where I needed someone else to throw the ball back, and you’re waiting on a dusty field for other kids to show up. Heck, I could go to the golf course and practice whenever I wanted to practice, and I didn’t have to rely on someone else. That’s what ran me out of baseball.”
As MLB.com’s Cut 4 pointed out, a good switch-hitting catcher is hard to come by. There have only been 89 in MLB history, and only 34 of those have 1,000 or more career plate appearances. Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez are a couple of names that come to mind as far as players who have played recently, but it’s not a very long list.
If Nicklaus was as talented on the diamond as he says he was, he could have had a shot based on his rare skill set. But at the end of the day, some people just don’t like shagging balls and waiting around.