While everybody knows Michael Jordan as arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time, he did dabble in some other major sports as well. His insane athleticism and talent overall helped him to join another sports league. Some people have heard that he played baseball, but did he actually play the sport?
Did Michael Jordan play baseball? Michael Jordan did in fact leave the sport of basketball to try his hand in baseball. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ever a superstar in the sport like we all know him to be in basketball, but the fact that he played in baseball professionally is wildly impressive. Between his third NBA title in 1993 and his return for the 1995 NBA Playoffs, Michael Jordan played professional baseball for the Birmingham Barons and the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Jordan’s baseball career was interesting to say the least, and his decision to leave the sport of basketball in the past was incredibly surprising. However, he definitely had his reasons for leaving basketball and wasn’t too bad statistically in baseball.
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Why Did Jordan Play Baseball?
The reason behind Jordan leaving basketball to play baseball is a sad one. In 1993, Jordan and his family were informed that James Jordan had passed away. James was Michael’s father and always motivated him to keep on pushing through tough times. The stories started to flood the media, and apparently James was murdered in a rest area somewhere in North Carolina in his car. His body was found a few days after the attack happened and by then his car was already stripped for parts and rummaged through. James had always told Michael that he had dreams of him performing in Major League Baseball. Both Michael and James loved the sport and even though it wasn’t either of their primary focuses, they always had that baseball dream in the back of their minds. Michael decided to then try to play professional baseball in honor of his father.
How Did Jordan Perform?
Michael Jordan didn’t perform all too well in baseball. However, his expectations were a mixed bag. Some felt that Michael was going to fail badly and they were upset that he left basketball. Others believed that he would simply dominate in baseball because of his overall athleticism. After retiring from the NBA to chase this dream, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a minor league baseball contract quickly. He was with the team for Spring Training before getting assigned to the Double-A Birmingham Barons. He played in the Southern League and appeared in 127 total games throughout his career in the sport. He had a batting average of just .202 during that span but did knock out three home runs. If you happen to be interested, Jordan came up to bat 436 total times. Out of those attempts, he hit just 88 balls, creating that .202 average we just mentioned. Michael wasn’t horrendous in the sport though even if his numbers weren’t great. He gathered a total of 51 runs batted in and also happened to steal 30 bases. Also, Jordan found a way to score 46 total runs. He never got to play in a Major League Baseball game but definitely earned himself a load of publicity during his time on the diamond. Michael also got to play in the Arizona Fall League for a little. He went toe to toe with some of the game’s best prospects available and he did a little better than his usual, batting .252.
Path Back to the NBA
Despite many thinking that his path back to the NBA after a year in baseball would be difficult, it was actually wildly easy. He didn’t have to jump through many hoops and didn’t need to fight for a spot on a roster anywhere. When he announced to the world that he was going to step away from baseball, he simultaneously said that he wanted to come back to the NBA. He then managed to play the very next day against the Indiana Pacers. The Chicago Bulls owner at the time, Jerry Reinsdorf, made it easy on himself when looking at Jordan. He was the owner of the White Sox at the time and set up Jordan’s contract to easily flip back to the NBA if he were to ever decide to return. It made everything a lot easier and avoided unnecessary obstacles. Jerry also didn’t terminate Jordan’s basketball contract while he was retired just in case something would change his mind. I guess that turned out to be one hell of an idea with him coming back a year and a half later.
Why Did Jordan Leave the Barons?
It was a little surprising to see Jordan leave the sport of baseball so quickly after joining a minor league team. However, he apparently had a good reason for stepping away from the sport when he did. See, the year was 1995 and Jordan was reporting to Spring Training camp with vengeance. He wanted to keep on improving and bettering himself but he also knew that there was a line he wouldn’t cross. That line involved the war between the owners and the players union. Jordan told himself that he would walk away from baseball if the war between these two sides weren’t resolved by the time the exhibition games first began. Jordan understood the integrity of the union really well, so he wasn’t going to budge on that vow he made. Fast forward to those exhibitions, and the war wasn’t settled at all. Replacement players started to get pulled up while other players held out of the league on strike. Jordan wanted no part of all this drama and left quickly after. Had the strike not began at all, maybe Jordan would have kept on playing with the Barons. He might also not have won a few more NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls after returning to the team if he started to feel comfortable while playing baseball. There are a lot of what ifs that come to mind regarding this specific situation, but the strike was ultimately the reason for Michael walking away.