Today is Michael Jordan’s 53rd birthday, and you should be celebrating. The greatest basketball player of all-time (with the greatest signature sneaker line of all-time) is rightfully lauded for his monumental achievements on the court but Jordan also had a brief career dabbling in baseball, mostly with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.
Jordan’s career with the Birmingham Barons (and his even less well-known time with the Scottsdale Scorpions) was brief and certainly not as historic as what he did with the Chicago Bulls but it’s impossible to talk about the legacy of Michael Jordan without mentioning his brief retirement to chase his baseball dream.
Here’s five things you may not have known about MJ’s brief career in baseball.
1. Jordan’s decision to play baseball was largely a tribute to his late father who wanted Michael to excel at the sport as a young kid.
2. Jordan’s batting stats were decidedly average (.202 batting average, three home runs, 51 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and 11 errors over 127 games) for the Barons but the team enjoyed greater popularity than ever before thanks to MJ.
3. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf continued to pay Michael Jordan $4 million per year under his Bulls contract, despite Jordan’s retirement from the team. Reinsdorf also happened to be the owner of the Chicago White Sox, of which Jordan’s Birmingham Barons was an affiliate.
4. Jordan’s decision to retire from baseball and return to basketball was partially influenced by the players’ strike.
Unfortunately Major League Baseball was still dealing with the 1994 players strike when the 1995 Spring Training season was to begin. As the battle between the owners and the players union intensified the lines were being drawn. The players were deciding whether to sit out until a deal could be arranged or to play anyways. Jordan reported to camp in Florida initially in February of 1995. He would end up deciding in March not to be involved in the drama and chose to sit out while the strike continued.
During the strike, Jordan attended some Bulls practices. Soon after, he announced that he was returning to the Bulls with his famous “I’m back” press release.
5. The Air Jordan shoe line has made nods to Jordan’s baseball career in the past with the Air Jordan 9 “Barons” which came in the Barons’ team colors and had Jordan’s ’45’ on it in honor of Jordan’s baseball number.
Bonus: Take a trip down memory lane and check out some great photos from Jordan’s baseball career.