Like Drew Henson more than 50 years later, Jim Busby was a big-time college quarterback who won a bowl game and then pursued a career as a baseball player. But unlike Henson, who only briefly tasted big league action, Busby became an All-Star outfielder and forged a 13-year career in the majors.
Busby was known for two things: his speed and defensive acumen. He roamed center field for several teams in the 1950s and though he never won a Gold Glove, he probably should have. Busby was gifted at going back on the ball, which allowed him to play from a shallow position in center. He also had that strong quarterback arm and excellent instincts. He played with enthusiasm and often dove for balls, traits that endeared him to fans at every stop in his career.
He spent his most productive seasons with the Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators, and he was named to the All-Star team in his first full season in 1951 with the ChiSox. That season he stole 26 bases, batted .283, and drove in 68 runs. In 1953 with the Senators he batted .312 with a career-best 28 doubles, seven triples, and 82 RBI. His tenure in Washington was brief (Busby was traded five times in his career) and he went on to play for the White Sox again, Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston, the Orioles once more, and finally the Houston Colt .45s in their first season of existence.
Busby didn’t enter college until after returning from three years of service in World War II in the U.S. Army as a teenager, but competing against athletes much younger than him at Texas Christian University, he still dominated in football and baseball. On the gridiron he led his team to a victory in the 1945 Cotton Bowl and on the diamond he batted over .500 for TCU. He was signed to a contract by the White Sox in 1948 after finishing four years of college on the G.I. Bill.
Busby’s stolen base figures don’t seem like much until you realize that in the 1950s the steal was practically abandoned as an offensive weapon by almost every team and manger in baseball. His 93 steals in the 1950s are the 6th highest total of any player in the American League during that decade.
For his career Busby had a Range Factor of 3.07, well above the league average of that time, which was 2.62 for outfielders. He once went more than 80 games without committing an error.