Let’s take a look at Michael Jordan Baseball career and let’s see how he almost ended up as part of the White Sox roster.
Michael Jordan shocked the world on October 6, 1994, when he quit basketball at the top of his game to follow his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.
It’s not often that a 29-year-old professional athlete who hasn’t been hurt much quits his sport when he’s at the top of his game. In a press conference with Chicago media, Jordan said that the recent death of his father, a baseball fan, and a loss of interest in basketball were the main reasons he wanted to try something new.
Nine straight All-Star games, seven straight scoring titles (averaging over 30 points per game each year), six straight All-NBA and All-Defensive First Team choices, two MVPs, one Defensive Player of the Year award, and most importantly, three straight NBA titles. This is the resume Jordan left behind when he decided to play baseball instead.
As the most famous athlete in the world and the best player in the NBA at the time, the news sent shockwaves through the league, even though rumors and stories had started to spread a day or two before. When Jordan finally said what he was going to do next in his career, it was the worst-kept secret in sports.
Michael Jordan Baseball: How Good Was He?
When people think of Michael Jordan Baseball, they probably immediately wonder how good he was… continue reading for more info on this.
Jordan signed with the White Sox on February 7, 1994, 10 days before he turned 31. The Bulls’ owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, also owned the White Sox. He had been taking batting practice at Comiskey Park on a daily basis, and he had been pretty open about wanting to try baseball now that he was done with his very famous shoes.
As a child, Jordan loved to play baseball. His dad was a big baseball fan. The summer before, Jordan was almost going to give baseball a try.
So, when he stopped playing hoops for good, he tried baseball the next spring, partly to honor his father, who had been killed in the summer of 1993.
But the drive he had and the work he did to get better at baseball? Well, that was the drive inside him that helped him become a basketball star. He was always very competitive, no matter what the challenge was. This story, written by Dave Kindred, a former columnist for Sporting News, appeared in the January 17, 1994, issue of TSN. This was about a month before he signed with the White Sox.
It was normal for Jordan to start slowly in spring training games. No amount of swings against a pitching machine or a batting practice pitcher in the cages could have prepared him for real big league pitchers.
In typical Jordan form, though, he did have a memorable spring training moment on April 7, when he went 2-for-5 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the Windy City Classic exhibition game.
“I don’t think I’ve proven I can make the team,” Jordan told reporters that spring, according to TSN’s Chicago White Sox team notes. “That’s just the truth…. I won’t give up, though. I’m trying to fit five years’ worth of learning into eight weeks. Just hasn’t worked out the way I wanted.”
Michael Jordan Baseball: His Numbers
Now on this Michael Jordan Baseball article, let’s check out his numbers with the Barons.
In 1994, Jordan played in 127 regular-season games for the White Sox’s Double-A team, the Birmingham Barons. Here’s the main stuff:
- 436 at-bats in 127 games. 497 times at the plate
- .202/ .289 / .266 (average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) .556 OPS
- 88 hits: 17 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 home runs
- 51 RBIs and 46 runs
- 30 stolen bases; 18 were caught
- 51 walks and 114 strikeouts
As you can see, none of these regular-season stats are very good. Even though he stole 30 bases, that was not a big deal because he was caught 18 times.
Here’s some background: Yes, he only hit three home runs, but no one else on the Barons team really hit home runs that year. As a team, they got 40 hits, which was the worst in the Double-A Southern League. At the time, Seattle’s team in Jacksonville had the most hits in the league, with 131. Every other team, except for the Barons, had at least 63. Jordan did hit all three of his home runs in the second half of the Barons’ season, even though his average dropped a bit after a good start (he hit.265 in his first month with Birmingham).
In 497 times up to the plate, Jordan struck out 114 times. That is 22.9% of his PAs. In that year, the average rate in the Southern League was 16.4%, which was a pretty big difference from Jordan’s rate. He might have been ahead of his time, though. Do you know what the average rate of strikeouts in MLB was in 2019? 23.0 percent, to be exact.
Jordan was the Barons’ right fielder. He had some trouble, but everyone said he got better as the season went on.
You might have forgotten this, but Jordan didn’t give up on his dream of playing baseball right after the 1994 season, even though the big league season ended in August because of a strike. Jordan played baseball in the Arizona Fall League that year. In his first 41 at-bats, he hit.317, and after 123 at-bats, he hit.252.
Michael Jordan might have been able to play in MLB.
Let’s see how Michael Jordan Baseball career almost take him to the majors.
His boss in Birmingham and the AFL was Terry Francona, who went on to have a lot (OK, a lot) of success as a manager in MLB. TSN reported that he said, “He just needs to play. He hasn’t really played a lot. It’s a good foundation for the coming year.”
Even though the MLB strike went on into the 1995 season, minor league players were not affected, so Jordan showed up at spring training. He left before the official spring training games with replacement players started, because neither Jordan nor the White Sox wanted him to be a part of that part of the game.
Jordan went back to basketball in March. Baseball’s “what-if” questions could never be solved.
“I do think he would have made it with another 1,000 at-bats,” Francona was quoted as saying in this ESPN story. “But there’s something else about that time of year that people miss. He learned more than just how to play baseball. I really think he found himself and his love of racing again. He wanted to play basketball again because of us.”
Maybe he would have made it to the big games one day. Most likely not, but it could. He was going to play for Triple-A Nashville in 1995. And if that had been his only goal, he would have worked hard to get there. But by the time he was 31, he had only hit in a batting cage. He was so far behind the other guys he was up against.
From a different Kindred piece on TSN, written soon after Jordan came back to the Bulls.
He made the right choice when he decided to go back to hoops. In 1996, 1997, and 1998, he led the Bulls to three more NBA wins.
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