It's around somewhere. Joe Theismann is sure of it.
Maybe it's in a drawer near his 1983 NFL MVP award or the other keepsakes from his Super Bowl championship football career. Maybe it's in a file in the office in his Florida home, or perhaps the Virginia one. Regardless, Theismann, a quarterback, TV analyst, restaurateur, author and motivational speaker, is certain he still possesses one of the most curious mementos of his lifetime of success in sports and business:
A Minnesota Twins contract.
"They offered me $500," said Theismann, who played a dozen seasons in the NFL and led Washington to two Super Bowls. "It was a cursory offer, but they sent me a letter saying, 'If you're serious about playing baseball, we can talk seriously about money.' I still have the contract. It's a nice souvenir."
But nothing more. With their 39th and final pick of the 1971 amateur draft, the Twins chose the "shortstop from Notre Dame," better known as the 1970 Heisman Trophy runner-up. Yes, the Twins drafted a future Super Bowl-winning quarterback before the Vikings did, but no, Twins farm director George Brophy had no illusions about the team's long shot chances of signing Theismann.
"I don't think we have much chance to get him," the next morning's Minneapolis Tribune quoted Twins public relations director Tom Mee about the unorthodox selection. "But he indicated last winter that he might choose baseball if football didn't make him a good offer. Perhaps if he has a bad year, he'll be interested."
Perhaps he would have been. Theismann, 70, admits he entertained the thought.
"Yes. I did, because of my love for the game. Baseball had been a part of my life even before football. I played four years of Little League before I ever played Pop Warner," Theismann said. "I enjoyed playing in high school. I was on all-star teams, tournament teams. My cousin was a second baseman, I was a shortstop, and I loved it. But when I started playing football, I just threw myself into that game."
But Theismann didn't have the "bad year" that the Twins hoped for. The star quarterback, who led the Fighting Irish to a 10-1 record, a victory over No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and the overall No. 2 ranking to end his senior season, was selected in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins in the NFL draft the following January. But the Toronto Argonauts outbid Miami, and Theismann took his new CFL team to the Grey Cup as a rookie.
"I got validation. After that sequence of events, you say to yourself, 'I can do this.' And I realized I could play professional football," Theismann said. "But the baseball bug never left me."
Even now, he watches baseball every chance he gets. He's watched some Korean baseball during the coronavirus quarantine at his Destin, Fla., home, and even some Rays and Marlins games — "I'm getting ready for football season, so I watch Marlins and Rays games to get used to games without fans," he quipped.
But his love for his "other" sport goes way back. His baseball career at South River, N.J., High was so stellar, the Pirates invited him to a tryout camp before his senior year, and Theismann knows other major league teams, perhaps including the Twins, had scouted him. He gave it up to quarterback the Irish, but after his college football career ended, Theismann was restless. His math teacher, Jake Kline, was also Notre Dame's longtime baseball coach, and Kline invited Theismann to join the team for a four-team round-robin tournament in Florida that March.
Theismann played third base — "The shortstop, Phil Krill was on scholarship, so I said, 'OK, I'll play third,' " he recalls — and went 7-for-19 against Michigan State, Colgate and Miami (Fla.), with a triple, four walks and three RBI.
"I had a great series down in Florida, I really did. I was hitting the ball well, and I always had a really good arm," Theismann said of his .368 career average in his brief college career. "But I was really surprised when the Twins drafted me. It was neat. And I always dreamed about giving it a try, going to training camp, fielding grounders and taking BP [batting practice]. But you weigh the consequences, [consider] if something happened to me on the baseball field and I got hurt — it just wasn't rational."
Still, it's a nice what-if for a professional football player, and a great bit of trivia. "Thirty-ninth round. I love that," Theismann said. "Whenever I see Mike Piazza, I always give Mike a bunch of grief. Yeah, maybe I was 39th round, but he was drafted in the 60s or 70s [62nd]."