Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Orange Basketball Players who made the Major Leagues

Two sport athletes are a disappearing phenomenon in Division I sports.  Syracuse used to have many superstar athletes who dominated in more than one sport, with the legendary JimBrown and Vic Hanson leading the way.

A decade ago I wrote about the Syracuse football players who starred on the basketball team.  There have not been any football stars on the hoops team since then. That could change if wide receiver Trishton Jackson gets his wish and is granted permission to play on the basketball team.  We'll have to wait and see.

There used to be several baseball stars who also played on the basketball team.  Four of those baseball stars would go onto Major League baseball success.  Ironically, all would be pitchers.

Jim Konstanty
Jim Konstanty was the first Orangemen basketball player to play major league baseball and he may perhaps be the most famous.  Konstanty played basketball, baseball, soccer and boxing at Syracuse university, lettering in all four sports.  He would go onto baseball fame as one of the first prominent relief pitchers, starring for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1950 he would win the National League MVP award as he won 16 games versus 7 losses, with a then-league-record 74 games pitched and 22 saves.  Konstanty would have a 66-48 career record with 74 saves.

Dave Giusti was second, playing baseball and basketball at Syracuse.  He would help the Orangemen earn a bid to the 1961 college world series as a shortstop and a pitcher.  Giusti would pitch for 16 seasons in the major leagues, most significantly as a starter for the Houston Colt 45’s and a reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He would help the Pirates to a World Championship in 1971 with a 5-6 record and 30 saves.

Billy Connors was next, playing basketball and baseball at Syracuse. Like Giusti, he would help the Orangemen earn a bid to the 1961 college world series.  Connors would have a brief major league career, pitching in 26 games over three seasons with an 0-2 record.  He would go onto greater baseball success as a pitching coach in the minor leagues, and later in the major leagues (1980 to 2000).  Connors passed away in June of 2018.

The final Syracuse basketball player to play in the major leagues was Mike Barlow.  Barlow came to Syracuse on a basketball scholarship, but would find more success at the school as a pitcher on the baseball team.  Barlow would pitch in the major leagues for 7 seasons with a 10-6 record in 133 games.

Syracuse University no longer has a baseball team, so it is highly unlikely any future Orange stars make it to the Major Leagues.