- C, 3B, LF, OF
- February 26, 1930
- 5' 9"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 5-31-1953 with PIT
He was Bo Jackson, before Bo Jackson even born. He was a man with unlimited athletic talent, yet was struck with one tragic moment after another only to fight back and overcome severe setbacks in his life. His name was Vic Janowicz and while he would spend only a short time unsuccessfully in the majors, his story is nonetheless inspirational.
Vic was the first Heisman Trophy winner to play in both the NFL and major league baseball as he won the award as a junior for the 1950 Rose Bowl Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. He was looking to become the first two-time winner when Ohio State hired a new coach, Woody Hayes in 1951. Hayes scrapped the offense that was built for Janowicz in 1951 and due to that and the several philosophical differences that came about between the two, he became nothing more than a decoy as his total offensive numbers fell from 875 yards in 1950 to 450 in ’51. He was not even named in the top 10 for the Heisman voting his senior season as he left the school deciding to shun the Washington Redskins and the NFL for baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After a couple years in the minors, he would play in parts of two seasons for the Bucs in 1953 and 1954, but after hitting only 214 in 196 at bats, he opted to join the Redskins and cast his lot in the NFL. He played the end of the ’54 season before leading the team with 397 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in 1955.
His bright career came to a close quickly in 1956 when he was involved in a very severe auto accident that left him paralyzed on the right side of his body ending any hope he had to play any sport. The accident was on the heels of Janowicz learning that his daughter had Cerebral Palsy, an affliction that ended her life eight years later.
Through an incredible amount of rehabilitation, Janowicz overcame his paralysis only to be involved in a rear end collision in 1979, which would cause him severe headaches, the rest of his life, which came to an end in 1996. Ironically Janowicz would take a job as a traveling salesman, which would see him travel over 35,000 miles a year.
Even though his career with the Pirates was brief and very ineffective, his story is nonetheless inspirational that shows how a fighting spirit can overcome any obstacles.
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1953
Bo Jackson is the only other Heisman Trophy winner to play in the major leagues.
Career highlights and awards
* 1950 Heisman Trophy
* Ohio State #31 retired number
* College Football Hall of Fame
Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia