After retiring from the NBA, Michael Jordan spent 1994 playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox’s minor league affiliate team, the Birmingham Barons. During his brief stint with the Barons, Jordan played outfield with a .202 batting average, 88 hits, three home runs, 51 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 127 games.
Jordan’s stats were better in the following Arizona Fall League upping his batting average to .252. Former White Sox hitting coach Walk Hriniak told MLB.com that Jordan worked incredibly hard at improving his batting but admitted that he expected the NBA legend to do a bit better on the baseball diamond.
“I didn’t expect him to tear it up, but I expected him to do better,” Hriniak explained.
Jordan retired from the NBA in 1993 and began playing for the Barons in 1994. He would return to the Bulls in 1995 during the NBA regular season just in time for their playoff run.
The Death of Jordan’s Father Prompted the Star to Try Playing Pro Baseball
Jordan grew up playing baseball, but basketball became his sport of choice after he started to excel on the court. He began discussing the idea with his father, James Jordan, but his dad’s death became the tipping point for Jordan pursuing a baseball career after his brief NBA retirement.
“It began as my father’s idea,” Jordan told The New York Times in 1994. “We had seen Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders try two sports and my father had said that he felt I could have made it in baseball, too. He said, ‘You’ve got the skills.’ He thought I had proved everything I could in basketball, and that I might want to give baseball a shot. I told him, ‘No, I haven’t done everything. I haven’t won a championship.’ Then I won it, and we talked about baseball on occasion, and then we won two more championships. And then he was killed.”
Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona Coached Jordan in the Minor Leagues
Terry Francona was the Barons manager when Jordan was with the team. Francona is now the Cleveland Indians manager and believes that Jordan had a chance to make it to MLB if he stuck with it long-term.
“I think if he was willing to invest two more full years, and by that I mean 800-900 at-bats, I really think he would have found a way to get to the major leagues,” Francona explained to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s going to be an everyday player, but in his first year in Double-A, after not playing for 14 years, he found a way to steal 30 bases, he found a way to drive in 50 runs. And I found out if you tell him no, he will find a way to make the answer be yes — probably more than anyone I’ve been around. He had so many raw tools, he hadn’t played in so long. I thought it was actually a miracle that he did what he did, and again when he went to the fall league, he got better. I’m going to guess if he would have invested a couple more years, I bet he would have found his way to the big leagues.”