Michael Jordan is one of the most famous basketball players of all time. He reinvented the game, brought the NBA to the forefront of the public eye, and set up a dynasty from scratch. However, it wasn’t the only sport he played. He took a shot at baseball too.
This guide breaks down Jordan’s time away from basketball, including why he stepped away, where he went, and his stats in the minor leagues. He didn’t have the same success on the diamond as he did on the court, but he still gave it a fair shot.
A Man of Many Talents
Most athletes, especially in today’s world, stick to one sport. That’s not saying they couldn’t branch out, but it’s extremely difficult for anyone to maintain playing at the top level in two completely different leagues. There are some who have done it, but it’s incredibly rare.
Not only does a player need to have two completely different skill sets, they also need to be able to balance the timing. That’s why, when Jordan announced his retirement during the 1993 season and decided to try his hand at baseball, everyone was shocked.
He wasn’t just trying to do something difficult, he was attempting to do something almost no other athlete had ever been able to successfully do.
A Tough Decision
In 1993, Jordan was coming off the Bulls first three-peat and one of the best runs in NBA history. However, due to personal adversity with the death of his father (an avid baseball fan) and rumors about illegal gambling allegations, he decided to try the MLB.
While not good enough to go right to the majors, he signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. It was a bold move, and one that ultimately didn’t last. Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995, and eventually led the Bulls back to the promised land.
As Jordan was only out of the NBA for two seasons, everyone assumed his time in the Minor Leagues was a failure. However, as with most things, it was more complex than it first seemed.
Moving to the Diamond
Jordan always had a straight shot to the minor leagues. He was an incredibly famous athlete, and playing for a home town team seemed like a no brainer. Using that fanfare and his own cache, he easily switched sports in a way that few people could.
Unfortunately, baseball is a much different beast than basketball. Where in basketball the distance around the court never changes, baseball pitches shift constantly. As such, it took Jordan some time to fully adapt to the process.
Overall, the superstar batted .202, struck out 114 times, and committed 11 errors during his first summer playing baseball. He also drove in 51 runs and stole 30 bases, but was caught stealing 18 times.
Breaking that down further, he played in 127 games (436 at-bats), hit 17 doubles, 1 triple, and knocked the ball over the fence 3 times. He walked during 51 at bats, and struck out 114 times.
Anyone who knows baseball understands those stats are less than impressive. The Barons weren’t a great team when Jordan played with them, but the superstar did have a problem with both big hits and strikeouts. He just couldn’t get on base in a consistent way.
That being said, he did have a competitive drive few athletes can match. That’s why, even if his first effort is less than impressive, he wasn’t as bad as the stats make him seem.
Room for Improvement
Players like Jordan are extremely rare. Not only did he have a lot of raw talent, but he always tried to get better. That was true in basketball, and it was true in the MLB.
Jordan struggled a bit when he first entered double-A, but he quickly improved as time went on. While his summer wasn’t impressive, his stats in the fall league were much better. He started on a tear, netting an average of .317, and finished with .252.
That’s not going to set the world on fire, but it shows just how much better he may have gotten should he have kept playing. The player’s strike ended the season early, and ultimately sent Jordan back to the NBA, but he had flashes of being much better.
There’s no way to know if he would have adapted to baseball, but given his unique mentality, it’s quite likely. The small sample size doesn’t tell the whole story.
Jordan wasn’t a big baseball player, but he clearly had a love of the game. He played for less than two seasons, but did a decent job while he was there. He didn’t come anywhere close to the G.O.A.T status, but you can only keep a top athlete down for so long.
There’s no telling what would have happened if he stuck it out.