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Joe Namath meets with Joe Maddon before Wednesday’s game against the Phillies at Wrigley Field. | Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

Joe Namath thinks ‘what could’ve been’ if he decided to play for Cubs in 1961

SHARE Joe Namath thinks ‘what could’ve been’ if he decided to play for Cubs in 1961
SHARE Joe Namath thinks ‘what could’ve been’ if he decided to play for Cubs in 1961

It took Joe Namath 57 years to step on the mound at Wrigley Field with a baseball in hand and a Cubs jersey with his name on the back.

“It crosses my mind every time I see a Cubs game,” Namath said.

In 1961, the Cubs offered Namath, a brash 18-year-old outfielder, a two-year deal worth $50,000.

They weren’t the only ones interested in him. Namath also received offers from the Cardinals, Orioles and Kansas City Athletics.

But Namath decided — actually, it was his mother — that it was important for him to get an education, thus ending his baseball pursuits.

And the rest is history.

Namath went on to win a national title with Alabama in 1964 before leading the Jets to victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969.

But it makes you wonder what might’ve been if “Broadway Joe,” who seriously considered playing professional baseball as a senior in high school, took the Cubs’ offer.

“I have no idea,” Namath said. “I’ve been the luckiest guy around. I’ve been healthy, thank God. I thank God every day several times. I can’t imagine what would’ve been, could’ve been, should’ve been. All that stuff. But I love baseball, and my mother was right. I needed to go school.”

Namath’s first visit to Wrigley was as special to him as it was to Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who viewed the Jets star quarterback and fellow Pennsylvania native as his childhood hero.

The Cubs set it up for Namath to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, which overshadowed Bears tight end Zach Miller’s pitch.

Namath, who just turned 75, said he soaked up all of Wrigley’s glory when he stepped on the field. The ballpark was even more magical than he imagined it would be.

“I got goosebumps when I walked in. It’s just wonderful, the whole thing,” Namath said. “Looks a little different than yesteryear around the stadium and back. But it is Wrigley, and it’s special.”

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