Why did michael jordan play baseball ? Michael Jordan. You may know him for his esteemed skill on the basketball court or his famous brand of basketball shoes – but did you know he had a brief career in baseball?
Prior to his shocking decision to leave the NBA in 1993, he had already established himself as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Through his nine years so far in the league, his impressive resume included an NBA All-Star MVP, three season MVPs, and three-consecutive NBA championships for the Chicago Bulls from 1990-1993.
At the peak of his game and a spry 29 years old, his leaving the sport brought significant confusion to many. Although, the decision was not without good reason.
One of Jordan’s closest peers was his father, James Jordan. He was with Michael throughout his whole career and provided support throughout controversy. However, the summer of 1993 brought tragedy.
Beginning in July, James Jordan disappeared for several weeks. After investigations persisted, they found his red Lexus SC400 in a ditch with its windows broken. Upon further search – his lifeless body was discovered in a creek 60 miles away from the car.
This crushed Michael Jordan. He was already experiencing fatigue from his fame in the NBA, and this was the last straw. He announced he would leave the NBA on October 6th, 1993.
Growing up, Jordan played baseball as a teenager. He even considered pursuing it professionally before deciding the NBA was his path. But it was his father’s love of baseball that finally motivated Jordan to try out a different league.
In 1994, Jordan signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. Initially, he was assigned to the team’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons. He struggled to find his footing at the plate, batting just .202 in his first season.
Was Michael Jordan good at baseball?
Jordan officially signed with the White Sox — Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf owned the Sox, too — on Feb. 7, 1994, 10 days before his 31st birthday. He’d been regularly taking batting practice at Comiskey Park, and he’d talked pretty openly about his desire to try his hand at baseball, now that he’d hung up his very famous sneakers.
Jordan loved playing baseball as a kid. His father loved baseball. Jordan nearly gave baseball a shot the previous summer.
So when he stepped away from the basketball court officially, he decided to try baseball the next spring, partially as a tribute to his father, who had been murdered in the summer of 1993.
But the motivation — and work — he put into becoming a better baseball player? Well, that was the inner drive that helped make him into a basketball superstar. He was intensely competitive, and it didn’t matter what the competition was. This story, written by longtime Sporting News columnist Dave Kindred, ran in the Jan. 17, 1994, issue of TSN (published about a month before he officially signed with the White Sox).
Jordan started slowly in spring training games, which was to be expected. No amount of swings in the cages — against a pitching machine or batting-practice pitcher — could have possibly prepared him for live, major league caliber pitchers.
In typical Jordan fashion, though, he did have this unforgettable spring training moment on April 7, when he went 2-for-5 in the Windy City Classic exhibition game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“I don’t think I’ve proven I can make the team,” Jordan told writers that spring, as reported in TSN’s Chicago White Sox team notes. “That’s just being honest. … But I’m not going to give up. I’m trying to squeeze five years into eight weeks. It just hasn’t happened the way I wanted it to.”
Jordan struck out 114 times in 497 plate appearances. That’s 22.9 percent of his PAs. The league average in the Southern League that year was 16.4 percent, pretty significantly below Jordan’s rate. But maybe he was ahead of his time. Know what the average MLB strikeout percentage was in 2019? Exactly 23.0 percent.
Jordan played right field for the Barons. He struggled at times, but by all reports seemed to get better as the season progressed.
Here’s something you might have forgotten: Jordan didn’t quit on his baseball dream immediately after the 1994 season, even though that major-league season ended in August with the players strike. Jordan played in the Arizona Fall League that year, batting .317 in his first 41 at-bats and finishing with a .252 average in 123 ABs.
Could Michael Jordan have played in MLB?
Terry Francona, who went on to a fair bit (OK, a TON) of success as a MLB manager, was his manager in Birmingham and in the AFL. He said, as quoted in TSN, “He just needs to play. He hasn’t played that much. It’s a good building block for next year.”
Even though the MLB strike continued into the 1995 season, minor league players were not affected, so Jordan showed up at spring training. He departed when the official spring training games with replacement players were set to begin, as neither Jordan nor the White Sox had any intention of getting him involved with that ugly element of the game.
“I do think with another 1,000 at-bats, he would’ve made it,” Francona said, as quoted in this ESPN article. “But there’s something else that people miss about that season. Baseball wasn’t the only thing he picked up. I truly believe that he rediscovered himself, his joy for competition. We made him want to play basketball again.”
Maybe he would have eventually made the big leagues. Probably not, but maybe. He was ticketed for Triple-A Nashville for the 1995 season. And if that was his only goal, there’s no doubt he would have put in the work necessary. But starting at 31, without more than batting cage swings, he was just so far behind the players he was competing against.
Did Michael Jordan have any shot at making the MLB?
Michael Jordan reportedly received an offer to join the Oakland Athletics during his time as a baseball player. During an appearance on the “Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney” podcast, former Athletics executive Sandy Alderson spoke about how he made Jordan an offer. However, the offer appeared to be more of a publicity stunt.
Obviously returning to the NBA was the right decision for Michael Jordan. He led the Chicago Bulls to a second three-peat from 1996-98, finishing his career with a total of six NBA titles.
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