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Players who have made notable position switches in their pro sports careers

The list

So the Bucs are switching safety Jermaine Phillips to linebacker. Good idea? Time will tell. Phillips joins a long list of players who have made notable position switches in their careers. Here are a few who come to mind.

Dale Murphy

The Braves great started off as a catcher, but every time he threw to second base, the ball ended up in centerfield. His dad told him, "Well, son, you never have to worry about anyone stealing centerfield on you.'' In 85 games as a catcher, Murphy had 17 errors and 31 passed balls. The Braves eventually moved him to the outfield, where he went on to win five Gold Gloves and become one of the franchise's great players.

Alex Rodriguez

In 2003, Rodriguez was the best shortstop in baseball. But if he wanted to play for the Yankees, he couldn't play short because they happened to have a fella named Derek Jeter there. So A-Rod was willing to move to third for a chance to help the Yankees win another world championship or two. How's that working out for ya, A-Rod?

Cal Ripken

In 1982 (his rookie of the year season), Ripken played 94 games at shortstop and 71 at third. But for the next 14 seasons, Ripken played exclusively at short, even picking up two Gold Gloves. Then, in an effort to extend his career, he moved to third for his final five seasons.

Larry Brown

He was a member of the 1970s Steelers dynasty. In Super Bowl IX, where Pittsburgh won its first title, Brown, a tight end, caught a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:31 left that iced a 16-6 victory against the Vikings. But after the 1976 season (his sixth in the NFL), Brown moved from tight end to tackle for the next eight seasons and was good enough to earn Pro Bowl honors in 1982.

Sergei Fedorov

At one time, the Russian center was the best player in the world, proven by his 1994 Hart Trophy, given to the NHL's most valuable player. In the late '90s, the Red Wings had a few injuries, and legendary coach Scotty Bowman moved Fedorov to defense. Longtime team executive Jim Devellano said, "I'm convinced if we left him there, he'd have won a Norris Trophy (for the NHL's top defender)." Even this month, Fedorov, now a Capital, played a few shifts on defense.

Magic Johnson

Magic switched positions for one game. But what a game. The NBA star was already something of a freak, being 6 feet 8 and playing point guard. When center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sprained his ankle and could not play Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the 76ers, the Lakers decided to move the rookie to the pivot. Magic responded with a game for the ages: 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers to the title and win the series' MVP award.

Robin Yount

Another Hall of Fame baseball player who was an All-Star at two positions. The Brewers great was among baseball's best shortstops from 1974 to 1984, making three All-Star teams. He then went to centerfield for the final nine seasons of his brilliant career, including 1989, when he was named the American League MVP.

Rick Ankiel

It's not unusual for a position player to become a pitcher early in his career. But you rarely hear of a pitcher becoming a position player. Babe Ruth is the best example. St. Louis' Ankiel is the latest. He was a promising pitcher until he mysteriously lost his control. He went back to the minors, worked on his hitting and became a solid player. Last season as a centerfielder, Ankiel had 25 homers and 71 RBIs, and is considered to have one of baseball's best outfield arms.

George Musso

It's common for NFL players to switch from one position to a similar one, such as from outside linebacker to inside linebacker or defensive end to defensive tackle. George Musso, who played for the Chicago Bears in the 1930s and 1940s, switched from offensive tackle to guard. We mention him because he was the first NFL player to be named All-NFL at two positions, tackle in 1935 and guard in 1937.

Kordell Stewart

He was nicknamed "Slash'' because the college quarterback was a quarterback-slash-receiver-slash-back in the NFL. Others made the switch from college QB to another position. Think Hines Ward. And … perhaps someday, Tim Tebow?

Frank Gifford

Best-known for being a broadcaster, Gifford was a football All-Pro at three positions: defensive back, running back and wide receiver.

Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

Your two cents Subject: Bowden says NCAA's punishment is overkill

Regarding the NCAA sanctions ordered against Florida State University, it was sad and disappointing to read Bobby Bowden's rationalization that "there are different degrees of wrongdoing." This is the very attitude that promotes a cheating culture. Mr. Bowden is a leader of impressionable young men who look to him as an example of how to live their lives, not just how to play football. He had several days to measure his response, and all he came up with was an impertinent analogy about a driver going five miles an hour over the speed limit, as opposed to going 50 miles over the limit. When the head guy protests "but we only cheated a little bit," the depth of the problem becomes apparent.

Brett Geer, Tampa

Subject: FSU

It was sad enough that FSU president T.K. Wetherell chose to appeal the NCAA sanctions resulting from a host of FSU athletes cheating on a "music" course. FSU coach Bobby Bowden is quoted (Thursday) in the St. Petersburg Times as saying the punishment was "too stiff". His justification for this ridiculous statement is the "You can go five miles over the speed limit. That's one thing. Or you can go 50 miles over the speed limit, and that's dangerous. It just seems like they're killing a flea with a hammer." Does Coach Bowden mean that some cheating is okay? If so, how much cheating merits a severe punishment? Does he mean that cheating on a music course is okay because it is not a real "academic" course? If this is the case, why are so many athletes taking the course? What a travesty that, regardless of what the president and coach profess to be the real reason for the appeal, it comes down not to the seriousness of cheating but to whether Bowden's career wins record can beat (that of) Penn State's Joe Paterno. What kind of message does this give about FSU's concern for the correct relationship between academics and athletics? What kind of message does this give to all students, athletes or nonathletes?

Mal Simon, St. Pete Beach

Players who have made notable position switches in their pro sports careers 03/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 10:23pm]
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