Baseball Was John Wooden’s Favorite Sport

LOS ANGELES — One of the most fascinating stories Collegiate Baseball has ever run was printed 37 years ago in 1980 when John Herbold was granted an interview with possibly the greatest basketball coach in history, UCLA’s John Wooden.

It was made possible by then UCLA Head Baseball Coach Gary Adams.

What was divulged during that interview was that the late Wooden’s favorite sport was not basketball, but baseball.

It sent shockwaves through the basketball community when the story came out.

“Baseball’s my favorite game, always has been, but basketball’s the harder game to play,” said Wooden who guided the Bruins to 10 national championships over a 12-year period, including seven in a row.

Within this period, his teams won a record 88 consecutive games.

“Had I been born in a baseball state like Texas or California instead of a basketball hotbed like Indiana, I might have become a professional baseball player or college baseball coach because not only did I love to play baseball, but I love to coach it too,” said Wooden.

“When I was in high school, many people said that baseball was my best sport, and I even played as a freshman at Purdue.

“But I didn’t have enough time for baseball because in those days there were very few scholarships.

“As I said, basketball draws on greater athletic skills than baseball and requires the most quickness and coordination, even though you need those qualities to a lesser extent in baseball, too.

“I was always a shortstop starting in grade school near Centerton, Ind.. My older brother and I lived on a farm, and he built a ball diamond for us to play on.

“Later, I played shortstop at Martinsville High, and in the summers, I was on our town team playing against touring Black teams like the Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis Clowns, Birmingham Black Barons and the Chicago American Giants.

“We met some pretty good ball players then who would have been in the Major Leagues had things been different.”

To read more of this story, purchase the Feb. 24, 2017 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the story explains how often he saw Major League games in Los Angeles, why baseball was fortunate to have Charlie Finley with the Oakland A’s and how he would have enjoyed coaching college baseball. He also delved into what he felt were the secrets of coaching baseball and basketball.