6 Packers Who Also Played Pro Baseball
It’s Opening Day, and while that means that football is still well off, it’s the perfect moment to explore an unusual subsection of Packers history: members of the team who also played major league baseball.
It’s a surprisingly robust list, and although most of the two-sport Packers show up pretty early in the team’s history, there are some very recent connections, too. Here are some of the highlights, keeping in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Pid Purdy - Outfielder and back
Purdy played outfield for the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds from 1926 through 1929, logging a career batting average of .293 in 181 games.
At 5-6 and around 150 pounds, he was far from a power hitter, but he’s credited with two career home runs. He also suited up for the Packers in 1926 and 1927, playing 17 games and kicking three field goals and 15 PATs.
He also has the distinction of being the lightest player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass, tossing one during the 1926 season. His listed weight at the time was just 145 pounds.
Red Smith - Catcher and back
Smith is barely a footnote in both major league baseball and professional football, but he’s part of a very important moment in Packers history.
Smith’s baseball career was very short: he played exactly one big league game in his career, catching a single game for the 1927 New York Giants.
His first go-round with the Packers wasn’t much more impressive. He played in five games during the 1927 season, but didn’t record a stat.
After splitting the 1928 season between the football versions of the New York Giants and New York Yankees, Smith returned to the Packers for the 1929 season and was part of their first NFL championship team.
Larry Bettencourt - Right fielder, third baseman, and center
A tremendous college football player, Bettencourt pursued professional baseball after graduating from St. Mary’s College of California.
He played for the St. Louis Browns in 1928, 1931, and 1932, knocking eight home runs during his 168 career games.
He played just two games with the Packers in 1933 and didn’t do anything noteworthy.
Cliff Aberson - Left fielder and tailback
Aberson is one of the more unique players on this list, making it in both professional baseball and football despite not attending college.
At 6-1 and nearly 200 pounds, he was a good sized athlete for his era. He ended up in Green Bay for the 1946 season after being referred to the Packers by Herman Rohring, with whom Aberson played sandlot ball in Mississippi.
His lack of big-time experience didn’t scare Lambeau at all. In fact, he thought very highly of Aberson:. "We've got the best passing we've had since [Cecil] Isbell left," he said, "and a lot more of it. And with this kid Aberson we may even in time have another Isbell.
It didn’t work out that way. Aberson played one year with the Packers and completed just 14 passes on 41 attempts, throwing five interceptions and no touchdowns. After that lone season, he moved on to big league baseball, playing in 63 games over three seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
Tom Brown - Outfielder, infielder, and defensive back
Brown may be the most successful football player on this list, but he didn’t start there. Before moving to the gridiron, he played a single big league season with the Washington Senators, appearing in 61 games in 1963 before switching to football in 1964.
It’s a good thing he did, too, because he would go on to win three championships with the Packers as a defensive back. During his five years in Green Bay, he intercepted thirteen passes.
His biggest play was one of the most critical in Packers history: Brown intercepted a pass from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith in the end zone in the final minute of the 1966 NFL championship game, saving the day for the Packers.
Javon Walker - Outfielder and wide receiver
Walker never made it to the majors, but he’s the only Packers player with any sort of significant baseball experience in the past generation or so, so he’s worth a mention.
Before heading to Florida State to play football, Javon Walker spent three seasons in the Florida Marlins’ minor league system.
He wasn’t quite as productive there as he ended up being in football, logging a career .169 batting average. Ultimately, he went back to football and ended up as the Packers’ 2002 first round pick.