James Jordan always wanted his son, Michael, to be a pro baseball player. After James was senselessly murdered in a robbery gone wrong, MJ decided to fulfill his father’s dream, and try his hand at professional baseball.
Jordan played for the White Sox AA affiliate Birmingham Barons for one season, in 1994. And, due to the ongoing MLB strike of 94-95, Jordan quit baseball in March of ‘95 and returned to the Bulls.
Tonight’s episode of The Last Dance, will show Jordan the baseball player. The guy who went from back to back to back NBA championships flying private around the country, to the guy who rode the bus in Alabama.
Jordan played in 127 games in his baseball career. So how much can we really gather from that one season? Was he actually good at baseball?
It depends on what you’re looking at.
By many indications, his stats were below average for a minor league ballplayer. And after 13 years without touching a baseball, the mere suggestion of Jordan playing at the major league level was enough to cause some ballplayers to write MJ off completely.
“Every time I pick up the newspaper or turn on the (sports) news, there’s another update on how Michael Jordan is doing...I’m really tired of it.” Randy Johnson told the Seattle Post Intelligencer in 1994. “I’d like to see how much airtime he’d get on one of my (inside) pitches.”
Hall of Fame ballplayer and coach, George Brett, called Jordans presence a “slap in the face” to players who worked their entire lives to get to the bigs.
But what the stat sheet doesn’t show, and these players do not mention, is Jordan’s world-class work ethic and his passion for the game. Jordan’s teammates, coaches and Baron personnel saw potential in the basketball superstar turned minor leaguer.
Last year, Baron’s play by play broadcaster Curt Bloom, spoke to ESPN about Jordan’s baseball career in Birmingham. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that ‘94 season,” Bloom told reporter Steve Wulf. “I swear, he was going to the majors.”
That year, the Baron’s manager was future World Series champion, Terry Francona. “He had it all,” Francona said about Jordan. “Granted, he had a lot to learn...I do think with another 1,000 at-bats, he would’ve made it.”
I have no doubt that Francona and Jordan’s baseball teammates will come to bat for him tonight. They may say that MJ was a star in the making, if only he had more time.
The Last Dance may look at Jordan’s baseball career through rose-colored glasses, but we will never really know how good he could have been at baseball.
MJ was the best basketball player of all time, but his baseball career will keep us guessing.