Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Original Tim Tebow

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Unless you've been in a coma for the last few weeks (in which case, welcome back!), you've surely heard the news that former NFL quarterback, polarizing media figure and Christian figurehead Tim Tebow is giving up the gridiron in order to pursue a career on the diamond.  After failing to secure a job in the NFL and growing tired with his broadcast work, Tebow began working out with former big leaguer Chad Moeller at the latter's baseball academy in Arizona.  In fact, just yesterday, Tebow starred in a showcase in front of a reported 27 (no Cubs rep, though) MLB clubs in hopes of luring an offer.

Of course, this has been an absolute media circus and it's easy to brush it off as a publicity stunt, on par with Garth Brooks and Will Ferrell going to spring training.  However, if you can take off your cynical specs for a sec, you might be able to see that this will be a fun story to watch. 

Either he'll go down in flames and you'll get to see the man the world loves to hate (by all accounts, he appears to be a good dude) feel shame or he'll actually prove his worth as a professional, two-sport athlete; those are some pretty rare birds.  Right, Michael Jordan?

Whether or not an MLB organization even takes the Tebow bait, all this hype still reminded me of another failing quarterback who thought he'd jump ship and give baseball a go for publicity's sake; this one, with a Chicago connection:

Bobby Douglass is one in a long list of uninspiring signal callers to put on a Bears uniform since  the days of Sid Luckman.  The former Jayhawk All-American with a strong arm was taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the Monsters of the Midway in 1969.  Douglass was, on again/off again, the starting quarterback in the Windy City through the 1975 campaign.  During that time, the Bears had only a 13–31–1 record with Douglass calling the shots.

After finding himself replaced by Gary Huff and Bob Avellini, made a few brief stops in San Diego, New Orleans and Green Bay, but he never did gain any sort of consistent success.  All told, when his NFL career came to a close in 1978, despite his arm strength, Douglass possessed a quarterback passer rating of only 48.5.  Eek. 

So, what do you do when your football career ends because your accuracy stinks?  Why, you transform yourself into a pitcher on the baseball diamond, of course!  What could go wrong there...

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In 1979, the Bobby Douglass returned to the Chicago sports scene.  However, this time, he wasn't donning orange and blue - rather, this time, he was putting white sox on, one leg at a time.

Bill Veeck, ever the showman, was no stranger to publicity stunts to attract attention to his ball club. After all, he was the man who sent the tiny Eddie Gaedel to the plate for the St. Louis Browns, way back when .  Now as the owner of Chicago's Southside franchise, Veeck decided to make Bobby Douglass the original Tim Tebow and inked him to a minor league contract.  No doubt this raised some eyebrows, but also raised some interest and revenue for his AAA affiliate.

With that, off to the Iowa Oaks (now the Iowa Cubs, btw) Bobby went.  As for the results of this little cross-sport experiment, you likely guess how they went.  In the course of 4 relief appearances, Douglass lasted 7 innings and gave up 7 earned runs, walking an eye-popping 13 men along the way.  After all, hitting his target was never his strong suit in the NFL.

The plug was quickly pulled and Bobby was officially done with professional sports.  Later that year, Veeck and Co.'s PR antics lead to the infamous Disco Demolition disaster; so, at least Douglass wasn't the least successful stunt that season.

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Here's hoping that whichever team decides to "Tebow" and sign the mercurial college football star (someone will to try and put butts in the seats) doesn't try to follow up their acquisition by blowing up a stack of IPods filled with dubstep.  

I'm looking at you Marlins!  They have a certain track record for such stunts, after all. (see Adam Greenberg, Survivor, Barry Bonds, the A-Rod rumors, etc.).

In the meantime, by all accounts, Tebow looked pretty average, at best, at his little showcase.  While he showed raw power, his defense was lacking, his arm was surprisingly weak and he struggled with live pitching.  If he were 18, he'd be an interesting sleeper prospect... at 29, he doesn't have much time to make up such a large amount of ground.  At any rate, I find this whole hubbub to be quite an interesting story to follow.

Maybe Bobby Douglass does too.


  1. Good post! I definitely didn't know about Bobby Douglass.

  2. " least Douglass wasn't the least successful stunt that season"

    Disco records got blown up. Has is that unsuccessful?