Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
Warriors fans should thank Stephen Curry’s dad for not pursuing a pro baseball career.
Who knows what would have happened had Steph, now a three-time NBA champion, grown up in baseball clubhouses and not basketball locker rooms.
“I’ve often wondered in hindsight how it would have been if I had tried to play baseball,” said Dell Curry, a onetime promising pitcher. “I thought I was a little better at baseball than basketball, but it worked out nonetheless.”
Understatement aside, there was a time in the elder Curry’s life when baseball was king. His favorite sport. The one he considered as a career. The thing is, pretty much every time he shot a basketball, it went in. It didn’t take much to realize his calling was basketball.
As a result, young Steph was influenced by a sharpshooting guard who sank 1,245 three-pointers over 16 NBA seasons, inheriting his dad’s shooter’s touch, something he has taken to an unprecedented level.
During a conference call promoting next month’s American Century Championship celebrity golf tourney near Lake Tahoe, where both Currys will participate, I asked Dell about his baseball career.
“High school, I just overpowered guys,” he said. “I could throw it pretty good. But in college, I learned how to throw a changeup, slider and a curve. I was OK. I could throw in the low 90s in college, a long, lanky guy with not much muscle.
“I would’ve gotten better with good coaching and gotten stronger. Of course, I want to say I really think I could’ve made the majors. I don’t know how effective I would’ve been, but I would’ve loved to give it a shot.
“But I’m happy with the way my career and life has turned out.”
The elder Curry was drafted out of high school by the Rangers in the 37th round in 1982, but he was destined to be a two-sport athlete in college. So he went to Virginia Tech and again was drafted in baseball, by the Orioles in the 14th round in 1985.
“If I would’ve gone into baseball, it would’ve been out of high school,” he said. “But I knew I was going to college to play basketball. The Orioles, I think it was just a draft just in case the basketball didn’t pan out. I could’ve always followed back on baseball.”
Well, there was this one time …
“I was a holdout with the Utah Jazz my rookie year,” he said, “and I remember my dad telling the media, ‘He’s not going to sign, he’s going back to college to resume his baseball career.’
“I was signed by Utah the next day.”
Dell did pitch in the minors, all of one game. As a promotion orchestrated by Hornets owner George Shinn, who also owned the Gastonia Rangers of the South Atlantic League. Dell and 5-foot-3 teammate Muggsy Bogues suited up for one game in 1991, and Dell surrendered one run on three hits in three innings.
“Muggsy was scheduled to play shortstop,” Dell said, “but he couldn’t make the throws so they moved him to second base.”
If indeed Dell had stuck with baseball, the thought of which now seems absurd, Steph wouldn’t have had the NBA exposure at an early age, which Dell said was invaluable to his son’s development.
Could Steph have played baseball?
“Uh, no,” Dell said. “Steph played a little AAU baseball, and when he found out he couldn’t hit a curveball, that’s when he took up golf.”
Around the majors
•Tim Lincecum, released by the Rangers on Tuesday, might try one more comeback bid, but don’t expect it to be with the Giants. General manager Bobby Evans called him a “forever Giant,” and the team would love to honor him with a Tim Lincecum Day, as it did in September with Ryan Vogelsong, but that would come only after Lincecum calls it quits. The Lincecum camp isn’t ruling out another try, for now, after he posted a 5.68 ERA in 10 relief outings with Triple-A Round Rock, giving up 14 hits and nine walks in 122/3 innings. It didn’t work out in 2016 with the Angels or this year with the Rangers, both of whom gave Lincecum major-league deals. The Giants discussed minor-league arrangements both times, neither of which he accepted, of course. Lincecum turns 34 on Friday, and his command and velocity aren’t at the level he’d need to succeed in the majors. On the other hand, he got off to a late start (signing March 6) and developed a finger blister, slowing his progress. Through it all, he was dealing with the death of his older brother. Despite the bad numbers, he finished his Triple-A stint with four straight scoreless innings. He’s not his old dominant self by any means, and it’s questionable if any team takes one more flier.
•Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who died Wednesday at 95, had a link to both the Giants and A’s — doesn’t every baseball lifer? — though neither was a perfect fit like the Cardinals. The second baseman wasn’t thrilled when St. Louis traded him to the Giants in June 1956, not after he and his family had settled in Missouri. “St. Louis was home, and that’s where we wanted to be,” Schoendienst wrote in his autobiography, “Red: A Baseball Life.” He played parts of two seasons in New York before moving to Hank Aaron’s Braves, who won the 1957 World Series, but he retired with the Cardinals and within a few years was their manager. He coached the A’s in 1977 and 1978 after the championship era, and owner Charlie Finley asked him to be manager. Schoendienst declined. “There was no way I was going to manage for him,” he wrote. So Finley hired Jack McKeon for a second time.
•Boston’s J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge said they’re not interested in swinging away in the Home Run Derby, which is fine. All the more reason to invite Oakland’s Khris Davis, who’d be deserving even if all those sluggers were included. He has 17 homers, including a majors-leading nine that gave his team the lead. Since the beginning of 2016, he’s tied with Giancarlo Stanton for most homers in the big leagues. Not that Davis would attend. He’s not a big limelight guy, unlike former derby champ Yoenis Céspedes, but at least honor the man with an invite.