Athletics

How Michael Jordan's baseball career was impacted by A's, Jason Giambi

How Michael Jordan's baseball career was impacted by A's, Jason Giambi

Michael Jordan went from winning three straight NBA championships to hitting under the Mendoza Line in just over one year. From two MVP awards to striking out twice on a nightly basis. 

Once the synthesized heartbeat of The Alan Parsons Project song "Sirius" reverberated across Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Jordan felt like he was back home being introduced before a Chicago Bulls game. In reality, he was walking to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning as a member of the Birmingham Barons -- not the Bulls -- on this July 6, 1994 night against the Huntsville Stars, then the A's Double-A affiliate. 

"When I heard that music from Chicago Stadium, I got pimples all over my arms," Jordan said to reporters, via the Associated Press. "It seemed like basketball all over again." 

The 31-year-old Jordan already was known for his ice-cold clutch gene with the Bulls. In the previous NBA season, he was named Finals MVP after averaging 41 points per game against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns. While the basketball court was his temple, Jordan was the popular new kid in school still trying to find his way on the baseball diamond. 

On this night, however, he played the role of hero. And it was all thanks to an error from eventual A's star and AL MVP, Jason Giambi. 

With the bases loaded and the count full against reliever Scott Harris, Jordan hammered a hard ground ball down the third-base line. As the speedy shooting guard outfielder sprinted down the line, Giambi, then only 23 years old and playing third base, bobbled the ball and rushed his throw, sailing it over first baseman Joel Wolfe's head. By the time the Stars retrieved the ball, all three runners scored to give the Barons a 6-5 walk-off win. 

Jordan was mobbed by his teammates. Flashes of him jumping and pumping his fist after his famous game-winner over Craig Ehlo and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs no doubt were playing in everyone's mind.

"This is my most exciting moment in baseball," Jordan said after the win while sipping a celebratory beer. 

But the ultra-competitive Jordan couldn't help himself. 

"It should have been a hit," Jordan said. "I hit that ball hard." 

Regarding Giambi's poor throw, MJ had to point out "I got down there fast."

To put the situation even more into the realm of Jordan's famous clutch games, the Barons actually went into the ninth inning trailing 5-0 while being no-hit by Stars starting pitcher Steve Wojciechowski. The only batter to reach base at that point was Jordan himself, who drew a walk. 

By the time Jordan stepped into the batter's box, the score was 5-3 and the Barons had knocked Wojciechowski out of the game. That's when he went back to wearing a red No. 23 Bulls jersey in his mind instead of a pinstriped No. 45 Barons uniform. 

"It was one shot to win or lose," Jordan said. "Mentally, I've been in that situation before on the basketball court. All I had to do was relax, make something happen, make sure I hit the ball hard."

In typical Jordan fashion, that's exactly what he did. Jordan even called the moment "almost like a championship to me." But really, this was another 0-for-3 night, dropping his batting average to .193 at the time. 

For someone known for staggering numbers, the stats didn't matter. The win did, though, for the eventual six-time NBA champion. 


In the above video, Jordan scores from first base and also hammers a double off the wall on April 28, 1994, in a 9-4 win over the Huntsville Stars.

Jordan's heroic hustle wasn't the first time he was connected to Stars in that '94 season.

He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in an 11-inning, 5-4 Barons win over the Stars the same night the Bulls lost, 88-77, to the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, ending a run of three straight NBA Finals appearances. Tip-off at Madison Square Garden was minutes after Jordan struck out in the second inning. Shortly after the final score of the Bulls' loss flashed across the scoreboard, Jordan grounded out to end the 10th inning. 

The Bulls couldn't win it all without out him, as Jordan did his best swinging a bat instead of throwing down dunks on Patrick Ewing. While he chased a dream his slain father once had for him, Jordan's minor league career came to an end against the A's Double-A team. 

Jordan finished the season strong, hitting .300 over the final three weeks to get above the Mendoza Line. But he went out quiet, going 0-for-4 as the Barons beat the Stars, 4-2 in the season finale. Basketball's GOAT hit .202 with three homers and 51 RBI, and struck out 114 times in 127 games for the Barons. He also hit 17 doubles and stole 30 bases. 

After his lone minor league season, Jordan played for Terry Francona on the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. He seemed to improve a bit and hit .252 over 123 at-bats. 

Though his minor league career largely ended in a hitless win over the Stars, he nearly had a major league career begin thanks to the A's before ever suiting up for the Barons. When then-A's general manager Sandy Alderson learned of Jordan's baseball desires, he jumped at the opportunity to finally bring more fans to Oakland

“When I heard that was happening, or about to happen, I called his agent right away and said, 'Hey look, I understand he may be going to Double-A. I don't even know who the 25th man is on 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,' " Alderson told ESPN’s Buster Olney last month on the "Baseball Tonight" podcast.

[RELATED: Kerr believes a Jordan 'Flu Game' will never happen again]

Jordan appreciated Alderson's interest but wanted to start from the ground up. He felt he didn't deserve to play in the majors right away, just like he turned down an invite to the Southern League All-Star Game.

Put the lowly stats aside. Forget the strikeouts and errors. Jordan fell in love with baseball while riding the bus with the Barons. And then it was taken away from him. He wanted nothing to do with the MLB strike, so on March 18, 1995, he famously announced his return to the Bulls in a two-word fax: "I'm back." 

Perhaps that's how he felt that July 6 night high-fiving teammates after Giambi's errant throw. "I'm back." There was the Bulls theme song and before he knew it, celebration. Baseball is a game of failure, but feeling on top was normalcy for Jordan.

Instead of famous words, though, as he drank his beer, Jordan shared the same sentiment so many baseball players have felt throughout the years: "It should have been a hit."

Bob Melvin puts A's-Astros brawl blame on Houston coach Alex Cintron

Bob Melvin puts A's-Astros brawl blame on Houston coach Alex Cintron

The benches cleared when A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano appeared to hear something Houston Astros hitting coach Alex Cintrón said coming out of the visitor’s dugout during the A’s 7-2 win on Sunday

Laureano was hit by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos in the bottom of the seventh inning. When Laureano got to first base, Cintrón said something to him from the dugout. That’s when madness ensued. 

Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected from the game, but no members of the Astros were thrown out.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Laureano would have never gone over to the Astros dugout unless something extremely offensive was said. 

“I think the league will know who it is, and that person should get suspended,” Melvin told reporters after the game. “Hopefully that’s the case, and nowadays without fans in the stands, and mics everywhere, my guess is they know who he is.” 

Melvin was asked what was said to Laureano.

“I can't tell you that,” Melvin said. 

Melvin was confused why Allen was ejected and nobody from the Astros was ejected despite the incident happening in front of the Houston dugout. 

“I don’t know how we ended up getting a couple guys kicked out and it kind of came out of their dugout and I don’t understand it, it’s just how it worked out,” Melvin said.

A’s first baseman Matt Olson was on deck when it happened and rushed over to defend Laureano. Matt Chapman joined him. Olson said he didn’t want it to be a situation where it was Laureano against the entire Astros team.

“[Laureano] was hit a lot, I know it was a curveball, but when he started going down the line, we heard that things were said that weren’t right to him, and maybe someone even told him to come over to the dugout, so I think he was definitely provoked a little bit,” Olson said.

Laureano had been hit twice by pitches Sunday. The first one occurred earlier by Brandon Bailey in the bottom of the fifth inning. Bailey had been traded by the A’s to the Astros in 2017 for Laureano.

Olson admitted there was a lot of chatter going back and forth, so he wasn’t sure exactly what was said.

For now, Laureano and Allen were the only two ejected from the game, but soon we will find out if there is further discipline for others involved. 

[RELATED: FanGraphs has A's almost guaranteed lock in postseason]

For reference, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly had been suspended for eight games after throwing a fastball behind Astros’ Alex Bregman and another ball above the head of Carlos Correa on July 28. 

Melvin said while he didn’t talk to everyone right after the game, the clubhouse appeared to have the same mindset as he did that Laureano was provoked.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

A's takeaways: What you might've missed from fiery 7-2 win vs. Astros

A's takeaways: What you might've missed from fiery 7-2 win vs. Astros

BOX SCORE

Things got heated in the bottom of the seventh inning in the A’s 7-2 win Sunday over the Houston Astros.

The A’s now are 12-4 on the season after sweeping the Astros with their ninth win in a row, and own a five-game lead in the AL West.

The A’s bats looked great and got off to a hot start, thanks to a Robbie Grossman home run. Starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo earned his first big league win.

Here’s what you might have missed Sunday at the Coliseum.

Benches clear

In the bottom of the seventh, Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos. As Laureano got to first base, Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron began saying something to him that didn't sit well with Oakland's outfielder.

While we’re not sure what was said, Laureano charged at Cintron.

Former A’s catcher Dustin Garneau grabbed Laureano before he could reach the Astros' dugout.

As a result, both Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected from the game. A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson escorted Laureano off the field.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Not wasting any time

Remember how the A’s have had a history of taking a while in a season to get things started? Well, we could laugh at that now. History doesn’t always repeat itself.

In the bottom of the second inning, Grossman hit a solo shot to right field for his second homer of the season.

On Saturday, Marcus Semien also didn’t waste any time to make an impact of his own while working a 3-2 count in his first at-bat of the game. He hit a solo homer as well, giving the A's an early lead.

[RELATED: Benches clear in A's-Astros game after Laureano hit by pitch]

Luzardo is here to stay

Sunday marked Luzardo’s second career big-league start, and it went rather swimmingly.

He gave up a two-run homer to Yuli Gurriel in the top of the fourth, but other than that, he was pretty solid.

Through 5 2/3 innings, Luzardo struck out five, walked two, and gave up five hits and just two earned runs before giving the ball to Yusmeiro Petit in relief.

Luzardo’s first outing against the Texas Rangers was “terrific,” as A's manager Bob Melvin said. “Comes as advertised.”

He sure does.