Michael Jordan’s brief foray into baseball was only in Double-A, but he apparently turned down a major league contract from the Oakland A’s.
As shocking as his first retirement from the NBA was, it was even more surprising when Michael Jordan signed to play pro baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization. He played for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, under then-aspiring major league manager Terry Francona.
Jordan’s foray into baseball ended after just that one season, with a .202/.289/.266 slash-line, three home runs, 51 RBI and 30 stolen bases over 497 plate appearances. He would go back to the Chicago Bulls in the spring of 1995, and lead another title three-peat before retiring again in 1998.
But Jordan’s try at baseball could have looked a lot different. During an appearance with Buster Olney on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast, former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson said he offered Jordan a major league contract upon hearing of his move down to Double-A.
When I heard that [he was going to play baseball], I called his agent right away,” Alderson said. “And said, ‘Hey, look, I understand he may be going to Double-A. I don’t even know who the 25th man is on team, our major-league team right now, I will sign him and put him on the major-league roster. He’ll be part of our 25-man team tomorrow.’ It never came to fruition. But I was totally serious.”
The A’s were 21st in baseball in attendance in 1993. So Jordan would have been a serious gate draw more than a valuable baseball player, in a strike-shortened season where they finished 51-63.
According to his former agent David Falk, Jordan’s loyalty to Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns both the Bulls and the White Sox, drove a decision to turn down the offer from the A’s. Falk also cited Jordan’s desire to “do the baseball thing from the ground up” as a reason for declining the immediate major league opportunity in Oakland.
Jordan surely would’ve still gone back to his natural habitat of basketball pretty quickly. But it’s interesting to know he had another option to play baseball, and was put in a position to turn it down.