Baseball historian Chris Jaffe points out that today is the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordan quitting baseball, noting that “he went back to his previous line of work.”
People always mock Jordan’s one-year baseball career and I suppose that’s to be expected when the best basketball player of all time leaves the sport he’s dominating to spend a year struggling at Double-A, but it always seemed to me that Jordan’s baseball performance was actually kind of impressive.
He played 127 games as a Double-A outfielder in the White Sox’s farm system–with Terry Francona as his manager–hitting .202 with three homers, 51 walks, 30 steals, and a .556 OPS. Make no mistake, that’s awful. FOR A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER. Jordan was a 31-year-old non-baseball player who hadn’t played the sport regularly in more than a decade and had never played the sport regularly above the high school level.
So yes, you could say “he quit basketball to hit .202 at Double-A?” or you could say “he took up professional baseball at age 31 without any experience above high school and somehow managed to hit above .200 with multiple home runs, an above-average walk rate, and lots of stolen bases!” Or you could just say “Jordan has a higher career on-base percentage at Double-A than Drew Butera!”
Baseball is super hard and what Michael Jordan did during his one year playing the sport professionally is more impressive than he gets credit for.