December 10, 1962
Adolph Rupp, the legendary basketball coach at Kentucky, said in 1962, "If I had my choice of one man in the country to build my team around, it would be Cotton Nash." The 6'5", 220-pound Nash was quick, smart and a deft passer. He played all five positions for the Wildcats, earning All-America honors in the frontcourt as a senior, and might have gone on to a decent pro career had it not been for one weakness: He loved baseball.
Dubbed Cotton-top for his blond hair, Charles Nash spent much of his early childhood on diamonds in his hometown of Kearny, N.J. When his family moved from New Jersey to Indiana to Texas to Louisiana, because of his father's job with DuPont, Nash expanded his athletic repertoire—he starred in basketball and football as well as baseball, and set a Louisiana high school record in the discus—but he never lost his attachment to the national pastime.
After he graduated from Kentucky in 1964, having hit .297 as a senior first baseman, Nash decided to play basketball and baseball professionally. Following a summer of minor league ball with the San Jose Bees, a Los Angeles Angels farm team, he immediately went to the L.A. Lakers' training camp. He made the team but was traded in midseason to the San Francisco Warriors. "It just got to be a grind because I didn't have an off-season to recuperate," says Nash, who averaged 3.0 points per game. "The mental and physical exhaustion from having to be at my very best every day hurt me in both sports."
Nash quit basketball, but two years later he was lured back by the ABA's Kentucky Colonels. After one mediocre season he finally decided to stick to baseball. Although he led the Triple A American Association with 33 home runs in 1970 and the next season hit 37 dingers while batting .290 in the Triple A Pacific Coast League, he never had more than a cup of coffee with the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.
In 1972 Nash retired from playing baseball but not from sports. He and his wife of 36 years, Julie, live in Lexington, Ky., near their five-year-old triplet grandsons and one of their three grown children. Nash, now 57, races standardbred horses and breeds them at Hunterton Farm in Paris, Ky. In '95 his Magic Shopper won The Jugette, the most prestigious harness race for fillies. "I've been an athlete all my life," says Nash. "Now I'm sort of a coach."