(CBS SF) – Friday marks 100 years since Babe Ruth first appeared in a Major League Baseball game as a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The Babe’s early foray into pitching is perhaps the most ubiquitous little known fact in baseball, but did you know a number of other big-name sluggers also started their baseball careers on the mound? Here are seven stars who – like Babe – were better off in the batter’s box.
Rick Ankiel – Ankiel is the most prominent recent convert. He was a highly touted fireballer in his early professional career, even earning Minor League Player of the Year honors as a pitcher. But control of his near 100 MPH heater got away from him and his pitching career flamed out in 2004. He went back to the minors as an outfielder, and earned his way back into the the big leagues in 2007, where he would remain until his 2013 retirement.
Dave Kingman – At 6’6″, Kingman would have been an imposing pitcher, but instead he chose do his intimidating with the longball, “Kong” was known to blast some of the longest homers in baseball. So apparently he wasn’t crazy for giving up on pitching after an 11-4 season as a starter for USC.
Lefty O’Doul – Lefty O’Doul is best known these days for the bar which carries his name in his home town of San Francisco, but the southpaw cracked into the bigs as a reliever for the Yankees and played well (with the exception of a 14 run inning here and there) for a couple of years. After switching to the outfield he became a powerfull slugger who hit .349 for his career with 113 homers over 9 seasons as an outfielder. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Mark McGwire – Long before Big Mac won broke the single-season home run record, baseball teams were wowed by his potential. That’s why the Expos drafted him our of high school in 1981, as a pitcher. It wasn’t until he bypassed that offer and went to USC that he switched to first base and began full-time mashing. The former Bash Brother’s 49 homers in 1987 still stands as the rookie record.
George Sisler – Sisler is the first member of the St. Louis Browns to make one of our lists in quite some time. But the Hall of Famer is every bit as deserving as anyone else on the list. The Browns brought him up as a pitcher but moved him to first base despite a 2.35 career ERA. All he did from there was hit .340 with 327 steals and 102 home runs in the dead ball era. Oh, and in 1922 set the record for hits in a season (257!) which lasted until 2004.
Stan Musial – One of the greatest hitters of all time, Musual actually began his career, according to legend as a 15-year-old pitcher striking out adults in semi-pro ball. He converted to full time outfield after shoulder injury in the Cardinals minor league season, then went on to become the face of one of baseball’s most successful franchises, comping a .331 career average a with 475 homers. The Hall of Fame member and three time MVP was arguably on par with The Babe himself.