Sports Greatest All Rounders
Max Woosnam – Football, Tennis, Cricket, Snooker and Golf
Max Woosnam was an extraordinary sportsman, not only did he captain Manchester City and England at football, he was also Olympic champion at Tennis, winning Wimbledon! He scored a Lord’s century in cricket, made a 147 break in Snooker and just to round things off he was a scratch golfer!
Fred Perry – Table Tennis and Tennis
Fred taught himself to play in this way. He was world table tennis champion at 19. Frederick John Perry was a British tennis and table tennis player and former World No. 1 from England who won 10 Majors including eight Grand Slams.
CB Fry – Cricket, Football, Athletics and Rugby
Charles Burgess ‘CB’ Fry was possibly as great an all-rounder as the world has ever seen. He represented England at both cricket and football in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He played for Southampton in the FA Cup final in 1902. He played rugby for the Barbarians, and just because he could he equalled the world record for the long jump. Cricket was his top sport, however and he was an all-rounder. He once took 6-78 with his fast bowling, had a high score of 258 not out in first class cricket.
He was also a super interesting and enigmatic man and I would urge you to read more about him.
Eddie Eagan – Boxing and Bobsleigh
Destined to remain the answer to a trivia question to which no one knows the answer, Eagan is the only Olympian to win gold at both summer and winter Games. He defeated Sverre Sørsdal of Norway to take the light heavyweight boxing gold in Antwerp in 1920, before turning to the four-man bobsleigh 12 years later in Lake Placid.
Liam Botham – Football, Cricket, Rugby Union and Rugby League
Liam followed in his fathers footsteps by playing county cricket for Hampshire but, perhaps realising he would never be as good as Dad (see later in list(who would?)), he became a rugby union wing for Cardiff, then Newcastle, and briefly made the England squad. When Leeds Rhinos came calling, Liam completed an unlikely sporting hat-trick by switching codes to rugby league.
Eddie Charlton – Snooker, Surfing and Australian Rules football
As ‘Steady Eddie’, Charlton was one of the slowest players ever to wield a snooker cue. After one match, Cliff Thorburn observed: ‘Before the match I had a suntan – now it is gone.’ Away from the taable, this was the man who was part of a winning team in the Australian surfing championship and who also played in the Aussie Rules first division for 10 years. In 1956, he was selected to carry the Olympic torch on its journey to Melbourne.
Chris Balderstone – Football and Cricket
Combining professional football and cricket hardly distinguishes Balderstone. What does make him unique is the day in September 1975 when he turned out for Leicestershire during the morning and afternoon and for Doncaster Rovers in the evening. After a night’s rest, he returned to the crease to complete the most unlikely of centuries against Derbyshire and take three for 28 in a match his team won with five minutes to spare. After celebrating Leicestershire’s first county championship title, he ran out for Doncaster again the following Saturday. Balderstone became a first-class umpire on retirement.
JPR Williams – Rugby and Tennis
One of rugby’s most aggressive full-back’s was also a Wimbledon junior champion, but JPR Williams became exactly that in 1966. A career with the oval ball was more in keeping with his scruffy demeanour, awesome sideburns and socks rolled around his ankles, even if he did maintain a last vestige of his tennis days by wearing a headband that would have sat proudly around John McEnroe’s temple. A trained surgeon, he once stitched up a hole in his cheek before returning to the field against New Zealand and I lived on the same street as him in Teddington.
Jim Brown – American Football and Lacrosse
The man often regarded as the greatest American football player of all time (he’s the only running back to average more than 100 yards a game) was also one of the greatest lacrosse players ever to pick up a stick.
Michael Jordan – Basketball and Baseball
The basketball legend packed in his first love in order to take up professional baseball. After a shaky start he settled into Minor League obscurity, but then delighted the world by returning to basketball – and was an even better player for his break.
Tonya Harding – Figure Skating and Boxing
The American figure skater became a hate figure in 1994 when her Olympic rival Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted with a metal bar. Harding’s husband later admitted being involved in a plot to attack Kerrigan. After refusing to co-operate with the investigation, Harding received a fine and community service. After winning a ‘reality TV’ fight, she turned professional in 2003. She has had six boxing bouts as ‘America’s Bad Girl’, winning three and losing three.
Denis Compton – Football and Cricket
Dennis Compton was as a Test cricketer, he scored 17 centuries for England, averaging 50 in 78 matches either side of the Second World War, and as a footballer he played for Arsenal, winning an FA Cup winner’s medal in 1950, and appeared in 12 wartime internationals. Explaining his success, Compton showed considerably self-deprecation ‘Lucky… went to a decent school, you see.’
Rudi Van Vuuren – Rugby and Cricket
The first man to play in the rugby and cricket World Cup finals tournaments in the same year (2003), the white Namibian also works as a doctor and runs a wildlife sanctuary. Part fly-half, part medium-pacer, he admits he is ‘not that talented at cricket’. He was proved right when Australian Darren Lehmann hammered him for 28 in one over. Never one to be discouraged, Rudi overcame injury to play against Romania in the rugby World Cup that same year. Namibia lost 37-7, then lost to Australia by what can be only described as a cricket score. In fact, they lost all their games in both tournaments by cricket scores. At least he kept a sense of perspective: ‘How can I compete with Jonny Wilkinson? He would not expect to walk into my surgery and treat my patients.’
Deion Sanders – American Football and Baseball
In his 16-year NFL career (stretching from 1989 to 2005) he played American football for the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons, winning the Super Bowl with both the 49ers and the Cowboys.
In baseball, he debuted in 1989 for the New York Yankees, then appeared for the Atlanta Braves, the San Francisco Giants and the Cincinnati Reds before retiring in 2001. HE nearly won the World Series in 1992, batting an astonishing .533 average, but it was not enough as the Braves lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the finals.
Roy Jones Jr – Boxing and Basketball
The boxing legend was mad keen on basketball and once played a basketball game on the morning of a title fight.
Babe Zaharias – Athletics and Golf
America’s greatest sportswoman was a basketball champion who took up athletics – and promptly won two golds and a silver at the 1932 Olympics in the 80m hurdles, javelin and high jump.
But she was not content with proving herself one of the great athletes of her time: after the Olympics she got into everything from performing in Vaudeville to playing competitive pool – and then, in 1935, she took up golf. She immediately excelled, winning 82 tournaments around the world – including 10 Major championships – and then famously, decided to play on the men’s tour.
She played three tournaments on the US Tour in 1945, getting into the events through qualifiers and making two cuts with a best finish of 33rd place in the Phoenix Open.
John Surtees – Motorcycling and Formula One
The British motor racing legend is the only man ever to be crowned world champion in both Formula One and motorcycle racing. The son of a motorbike dealer in the south London suburbs, he kickstarted his career on two wheels in 1952, becoming world champion four times in 500cc racing in the five years from 1956 to 1960.
In his final season in motorbikes he was simultaneously racing cars, debuting at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix before finishing second in his Grand Prix at Silverstone a few weeks later. He went on to win the championship with Ferrari in 1964 and eventually retired from top-level racing in 1972.
Bo Jackson – American football and Baseball
Bo Jackson played NFL for just three seasons because of injury . He was then able to play baseball playing for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. Incredibly, he was picked for both the baseball All-Star game and American Football’s Pro Bowl match.
Ian Botham – Cricket and Football
The legendary English cricketer was not only the greatest cricketing all-rounder of his generation, but also a rather nifty centre-half who had been split between cricket and football as a youngster. He made 11 league appearances for Scunthorpe in 1980 after joining them to try and get fit after an injury.
Althea Gibson – Tennis and Golf
Not only did Althea Gibson win 5 Grand Slam Tennis events but she also became the first Black player to compete on the Women’s professional Golf Tour.
Jeff Wilson – Rugby and Cricket
Jeff Wilson’s best sport was Rugby, he represented the All Blacks 60 times between 1993 and 2002, and was at one point their record try scorer. His brief international cricket career with the Black Caps in the early 1990s showed plenty of promise, but the inauguration of the Super 12 rugby tournament forced him to choose between the sports.
Luc Alphand – Skiing and Rallying
The French star became one of skiing’s greatest in the mid-1990s, winning five World Cup globes – including the downhill, super-G and overall World Cup titles in 1997. He retired from competitive skiing in 1997 at the age of 32, but didn’t give up speed: he turned instead to motor racing, racing in the Le Mans Series and the FIA GT Championship among others before crowning his second career with victory in the Paris-Dakar rally in 2006.
Jim Thorpe – Athletics, American Football, Baseball and Basketball
The legendary sportsman of mixed Native American and European descent excelled in everything from lacrosse to ballroom dancing while still at college, but it was when he went to take part in the 1912 Olympics that he became famous. He blitzed the fields in both pentathlon and decathlon to win gold medals, using that fame to launch a professional career on his return – though he had to give the gold medals back when he was discovered to have been in breach on the Games’ strict rules on amateurism.
He was picked in American football’s team of the decade for the 1920s and showing his versatility by playing as a running back, defensive runner and a kicker. At the same time he was also carrying on a baseball career with teams including the New York Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers, and playing professional basketball.
Rebecca Romero – Rowing and Cycling
Rebecca won a silver medal in the quadruple sculls at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but was forced to retire from rowing in 2006 after persistent back problems.
That didn’t stop her sporting career, however: Romero simply took up cycling and applied the same perseverance and dedication to it as she was used to doing on the water. Incredibly, she won a silver medal in her first international cycling event, the Track World Cup in Moscow in December 2006, before becoming Olympic champion in the individual pursuit in Beijing in 2008.
Daley Thompson- Athletics and Football
Most people would think that being a decathlete is already more than enough different sports to be getting on with, but Thompson turned out for Mansfield and Stevenage.
Sporting (not so great) All Rounders
Usain Bolt – Athletics and (not) Football
Usain Bolt is quite good at what he does best. The Greatest ever sprinter? However, all that glitters isn’t gold for him and his attempt at playing professional football ended with a series of rejections from professional teams all over the world.
Dwain Chambers – Athletics and (not) American Football and (not) Rugby League
Following the shame of his failed drugs test the British sprinter tried to reinvent himself first as an American footballer in the NFL Europa league, then as a rugby league player with Castleford.
Bradley Wiggins – Cycling and (not) Rowing
The first British winner of the Tour de France made an attempt at becoming a Rower and I’m sure he would be the first to admit that things didn’t go as well as he would have wanted them to.