In the spring of 1989, Deion Sanders became the first man to simultaneously star in three sports: baseball, football … and juggling.
By then, of course, Neon Deion already had a partial minor league season under his belt, appearing in 28 games at three levels after the New York Yankees took him in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB Draft.
That while preparing to head back to the gridiron for his senior season at Florida State.
And all of that while juggling expectations of becoming the next two-sport star to make it big in both the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Sanders could thank Bo Jackson for that bit, of course, courtesy of Bo Knowing pretty much everything, including how to become an All-Star on the diamond while holding down a winter job as a do-it-all back for the Los Angeles Raiders.
And it was that spring, while Bo was putting together maybe his finest overall baseball season for the Kansas City Royals that Deion added another line to his resume: Major League Baseball player.
Because, on May 31, 1989, Sanders made his MLB debut, going 1-for-4 in a 9-5 Yankees win over the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium.
Overall that season, Sanders would appear in 14 games for New York, batting .234 with two home runs, seven RBI, and a single stolen base. Not awe-inspiring, but enough to get that MLB tag next to his name.
And between the start of the 1989 season, as teams broke camp and came north, and that late May debut?
Sanders was busy juggling his duties at the NFL Draft, where the Atlanta Falcons took him with the fifth overall pick in April. Which, naturally, added another bit of juggling to Deion’s menu: preparing for the NFL season.
But there was yet one more bit of baseball business for Deion to juggle before the gridiron came calling again — he had to find his way onto a major league baseball card.
Enter Score and National Westminster Bank, who teamed up to issue a 33-card set of *just* Yankees to be distributed at a home game at The Stadium that summer.
And there, on card #22, was none other than Neon Deion:
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It’s a fun card that captures Deion getting ready to unload on a pitch, under some Yankee Stadium fretwork. He seems remarkably focused, with no balls in the air or anything — no juggling at all.
Today, this unheralded Sanders rookie card fetched $5 or so in raw condition on the open market, which isn’t bad for a dude sporting such an inauspicious batting line:
Eventually, of course, Sanders would do it all, spending nine years in the majors and 14 in the NFL, landing in the football Hall of Fame in Canton for his efforts.
And right there at the head of it all, before we knew where all the balls would land, an oddball Deion rookie card gave us a glimpse of the glory to come.