30 for 30 (2009–…): Season 1, Episode 18 - Jordan Rides the Bus - full transcript

In the fall of 1993, in his prime and at the summit of the sports world, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and taking the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of such an anchor in his life that caused the world's most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition by playing baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and perhaps not yet understood? Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie "Bull Durham," will revisit Jordan's short career in the minor leagues and explore the motivations that drove the world's most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Alabama, for a young manager named Terry Francona.

[upbeat music]

[Reporter] Forecast,
plenty of sunshine today

with seasonal temperature.

[Commentator 1] Jordan gets
another three, he has 27.

Michael Jordan answers.

[Commentator 2] The Bulls,
take one point lead

and Phoenix pause for
time with three inside.

[Commentator 1] Here's Johnson, Johnson
gets, no, he cannot get the ball.

Tucked away by
Brandon, it's all over.

The Chicago Bulls win three
straight NBA Championships.

A three point shot by John
Paxon, the game winner,

the Bulls with a record
low on the 12 points.

At the fourth quarter,
that was the NBA finals record.

[players chatter]

[Man] I first found out about it

when I was sitting
at home watching TV.

They found Mr. J in
a creek face down.

Good day, we're
coming on the air now

with word that the
body of James Jordan,

the father of Chicago Bulls
basketball star Michael Jordan,

has been found in a
creek near the border

between South and
North Carolina.

The cause of death, apparently,

a 38-caliber gun shot
wound to the chest.

[Reporter] A community
is shaken by the violent

and mysterious death-

[Reporter 2] What began as a
missing person investigation

turned to a homicide.

[Reporter 3] Authorities
say James Jordan

had pulled off the road to rest

when he was shot in
the chest with a 38-

[Reporter 4] Investigators believe it
was a robbery that went awry.

[Reporter 5] Gunned
down as he slept

in his luxury car
in North Carolina.

[Reporter 6] Was
murdered during

a random highway robbery.

[Reporter 7] Died driving home.

Bound for Charlotte on
North Carolina's Highway 74

after leaving Wilmington,
just after midnight on July-

[Reporter 8] Officials now say

they believe Michael
Jordan's father

was murdered either in a
ransom robbery or a carjacking.

Police today also announced
three more arrests related

to the stripping of
the elder Jordan's car.

[Reporter 9] Despite
the stated confidence

of law enforcement,

intriguing questions linger.

[Reporter 10] James
Jordan was 57 years old.

His body was cremated
a week ago before

authorities knew exactly
who he was or the FBI...

[Reporter 11] The two men accused

of killing Michael
Jordan's father arrived

at the Robeson
County court house

for a scheduled
probable cause hearing.

[Reporter 12] Arraigned
is the trigger man

shooting a groggy,
legally drunk James Jordan

on July 23rd, 1993.

[Reporter 13] The prosecutor
said today he would seek

the death penalty as 19 year
old Daniel Green stepped

with an almost jaunty air...

[Man] I've been fishing here
approximately around 20 years,

bass, shell cracker,
robins, perch,

quite a few varieties
come through here.

It's a real nice place,
peaceful around here.

About all people do around
here, just fish, hunt,

just try and enjoy
life, simple people.

Right back there they found
Mr. Michael Jordan's father.

It was one of the biggest
tragedies we've had around here.

[David] I'd known Michael
since I was 6 years old.

My mother and his father
used to work together.

And we've just been
good buddies ever since.

His father was very, very
special to him and myself.

And when his father died,

Mike had to get
away for a while,

because it was really
messing with his head.

I mean, it floored
me, I just cried,

I couldn't say anything.

I think it took me the rest of
that evening and the next day,

when I came home
in the afternoon,

then I tried to get a hold
of Michael on the telephone.

[Reporter] Later this afternoon,

private funeral
services will be held

in Wallace, North Carolina

and later this morning...

[David] We talked about
what I could do,

what did he need for
me to do down here.

Mike said, I don't
want you to do a thing.

Leave it alone and let
the police handle it.

They'll take care.

And so that's what I did.

And then the next time I saw
him was at his dad's funeral.

[Reporter] 57 year old James
Jordan was laid to rest today

in the sandy soil of
Rockfish, North Carolina.

[Reporter 2] Hundreds
of people who knew

and loved James Jordan paid their last
respects at the small country...

[Man] He was crying,
he was full of tears,

he was talking about how
close him and his father was.

[Reporter 3] There is
no question, however,

about how close Michael
and James Jordan were.

[Jerry Reinsdorf] In October,
Michael's charity had

a fundraising dinner in

At the dinner, David Falk
came over to me and said,

you are not gonna believe this,

but Michael wants to retire.

And of course I was stunned.

The season was gonna
start in about 10 days.

Michael told me that he didn't want to
play basketball anymore,

that he was burned out.

He didn't tie it to his father,

but I know it had a
lot to do with it.

And I said to him, well,
what do you want to do?

He said, "I want
to play baseball."

I said, why? He said, "It was
my father's dream

that I be a baseball player
and I want to play baseball."

If that's something
you want to do,

I'm not gonna tell you that
you should play basketball.

Do whatever you want to do,

but before you make
a final decision,

you have to talk
to Phil Jackson.

[Phil Jackson] Jerry Reinsdorf
called me and said,

Michael's considering not
playing basketball this season.

I said, what?

That's something he says.

He said, "No, he's
considering not playing.

But I told him he has
to talk to you before

he can make that decision,

'cause you're
probably the only guy

that can talk him out of it."

I said, well, far be it from me
to talk him out of something.

I've never really been
able to talk Michael

into doing anything,

he does everything just
about on his own whim.

And Michael showed up, and we
sat in the chairman's office

and talked about it.

And he basically said,

"I just lost the desire to play,

I can't summon up the
energy to go out and play."

And I said, you
have to understand

that it's your decision,

but you're depriving
so many people

who enjoy this sport
the opportunity

of such great
amount of pleasure.

This is something you may have
to think about for a while.

He said, "I'm pretty much
determined that this is it,

I'm gonna step back."

[Reporter] Before
we continue tonight,

a late breaking story
of enormous interest.

[Reporter 2] The world's
greatest basketball player

expected and will announce
his retirement tomorrow.

[Reporter 3] Sources with the
Chicago Bulls have confirmed

that Michael Jordan
will announce

his retirement
effective immediately.

[Michael] I was tired of
being in that light,

in that expectations.

I needed a change,

and I totally needed a break.

I just felt I was being
engulfed by the success

that I've gathered at
that time.

And then my father passed,

so, it was the last straw.

I have heard a lot of
different speculations

about my reasons
for not playing,

but I've always stressed to
people that have known me

and the media that
has followed me

that when I lose the
sense of motivation

and the sense to prove
something as a basketball player,

it's time for me to move away
from the game of basketball.

I've always said that I would
never let you guys run me

out the game,

so don't think that
you've done that.

This is my choice.

Right now I've been on this
roller coaster for nine years,

it's just time for me
to ride something else.

[Reporter] Now wipe
that smirk off your face,

he's not kidding.

Michael Jordan is going
to give baseball a shot.

[Reporter 2] Chicago Tribune:
Michael Jordan's desire

to play baseball is no joke.

[Reporter 3] In his
heart he believe he'll be

with the White Sox opening day,

but the burning
question remains,

if he starts out in the minors.

[Michael] My father
presented a challenge

to me before he died, was
to try to play baseball.

And I just wanted to try it.

[Reporter] Welcome back to
Sports Channel's

continuing live coverage of
the Michael Jordan workout,

70% failure is a millionaire

in the game of baseball.

Michael has re-emerged
in the cage,

will the pitching get tougher?

Back down to Steven
Diver with that.

[Steven] Thanks a
lot, people ask Michael,

why the White Sox?

Michael says, my family is

[Michael] No matter what happens,
I at least have to try,

and if I fail,

failing is gonna be described

or defined by someone's
perception of what failing is.

[Reporter] All right, but
more importantly, can he do it?

[Dave] I'll be
surprised at the end

of spring training if he
does exceptionally well.

I won't be surprised
if he does well,

but I'll be surprised
if he does real well.

It's a tough sport.

[Michael] I'm doing
what I feel I want to do,

and that's part of
retirement, isn't it?

[Reporter] Well, today
the Tribune quotes him

as saying he wants to
go to spring training,

in hopes of winning a job
with the Chicago White Sox.

[Reporter 2] MJ is
in the batter's box

and insists again this week,

his dream of playing big
league ball is no fantasy.

[Reporter 3] The
Chicago White Sox say

they'll determine
by mid February

whether they'll invite Michael
Jordan to spring training.

[Man] I think the
whole thing is a hoax really,

and I think everybody out
here is just laughing,

they're just amused.

[Michael] It's no gimmick.
That's my motto.

It was no gimmick from day one,

I came out here to
put the effort there

and I felt I have every day

and I will continue
to do so until,

if I fail or if I succeed.

[Man] I'd like to announce
that the Chicago White Sox

are extending an invitation

to major league
camp in Sarasota.

He will be reporting
there on the 15th

with the catchers
and the pitchers.

And at this time, I'd
also like to announce

that we are signing him
to a Nashville contract.

[Steve Wulf] When I heard that he was
gonna be a baseball player,

I of course thought
it was ridiculous

because I had known how much
heart and soul players put

into the game before they
actually make the majors.

And I thought the concept
of someone just dropping in

and trying to become a major
leaguer was ridiculous,

even if that person was the
greatest athlete who ever lived.

[Announcer] Number 45, Michael Jordan.

[crowd cheers]

[Steve] Some of the players
were really resentful,

some of the pitchers
were saying,

oh, wait til he
sees my fast ball,

he'll never be able to hit it.

There was one
manager in particular

who said he couldn't believe

that this guy thinks he can
play major league baseball.

I think his quote was,

what did he hit in
high school, 285?

It's unbelievable, it takes
guys 15 years to learn

how to hit a baseball,

and this guy thinks he can
just walk on and do it.

Most rookies
labor in obscurity,

hoping someday to
have the kind of name

that attracts a little

when they walk out
onto the field.

But the only thing
Michael Jordan has

in common with most rookies,

is that most people
assume he's going to fail.

[Michael] So, I think the first
thing that I must do

is make sure that I'm
capable of being there.

I won't be a side
show for anybody.

If my skills are not
good enough to be there,

then I don't want to be there.

It doesn't hurt to you try.

I don't think it damaged
the sport, by no means.

[Steve] I thought that
he was naive,

that the White Sox
were trying some

sort of publicity stunt

that they were in a sense
making a mockery of the game.

I didn't take it
all that seriously,

I didn't think it was

I thought the White Sox
had a right to do that

and Michael Jordan had
a right to do that.

But I also thought
it was ridiculous

that he could
attempt to do this.

[Michael] I didn't expect it
to be easy.

I didn't think that I'll just
jump from the basketball court

and then hit home runs.

[Coach] Michael, now
that's the right start

as far as being
short to the ball,

that's the right start.

But there is no finish there.

So, if you went ahead
and finished the swing,

you would have been able to
get that ball in the air.

[Jerry] I got a call
from Walter Hriniak

who was our batting coach,

and a man who
didn't mince words.

And he was telling me, what in
the world is this all about?

And he threw in a few
four letter words.

And I said, this is
really a serious thing,

this is not a joke.

[Coach] I walked right
out to the outfield,

I don't know Michael Jordan
from a hole in the wall,

I walked right out to the outfield
when he was all by himself,

and I introduced myself

and I looked him dead
in the eyes and I said,

there is one thing
I got to ask you.

There is one thing
I got to ask you.

He looked at me
dead in the eyes,

and I said, "Are you
serious about this?"

And he answered,
"Dead, dead serious."

Walter said, "Meet
me in the batting cage

tomorrow at 7:30."

And every day in spring
training, 7:30 in the morning,

Walter and Michael
were in a hitting cage.

I just can't see
how what I'm doing

is gonna hurt the game.

If you're good enough,
you'll make the team.

If you're not good enough,

the cream will come to
the top, no matter what.

[Reporter] Reality took
hold today for Michael Jordan

as he took to the baseball
field for his first game.

Jordan struck out twice,
being fooled both times

on off speed pitches.

I'm totally outside
of what I've been doing

for the last 9 years,

but the more times
I get out there,

the more comfortable
I'm gonna feel.

Jordan says the embarrassment
he suffered today,

striking out twice and
dropping a routine pop fly,

have actually calmed his

Those first mistakes
are out of the way.

Oh, man, [indistinct].

Get out of here, camera.

[David Falk] Most athletes never know
when to walk away from the game.

They have a difficult
time walking away

because their identity is so
tied up in being an athlete

in a particular sport,

that they're almost fearful
that when they walk away,

they're gonna become,

they're gonna lose
their identity.

And so, when you take an
individual who can walk away

after three consecutive
championships, MVPs,

you're the most popular
athlete in the world,

and do something which can
be essentially anonymous,

and the likelihood of success

as measured by his
terms is remote.

That takes an enormous amount
of courage to walk away

from being a king and sort
of walk with the common man.

[crowd shouting]

[Steve] When I was down
at spring training

doing my normal work
for Sports Illustrated,

I actually called into
the office and said,

there is something really
interesting going on down here.

There is this static
going on about Michael,

and there seem to be
two schools of thought.

He is making a
mockery of the game.

And then there is also the
excitement over the fact

that Michael Jordan is
in a baseball uniform.

There is both this
edge of excitement

and animosity at the same time.

So, I wrote the story,

and then when I picked up
the magazine two days later,

and I saw Bag It Michael

on Jordan and the White
Sox Embarrassing Baseball,

I literally cringed,

because it wasn't
the story I wrote,

it wasn't the story
I meant to write.

In looking back on the story,

I was a little smarmy
and a little wise ass.

And I kind of regret
it, reading it now.

Personally, all hell
broke loose for me.

I knew that a [beep]storm
was coming,

but I had no idea how much
of a blizzard it would be.

[Reporter] In sports,
Michael Jordan's critics

now include Sports Illustrated.

The magazine
published an article

this week calling for Jordan

to give up his baseball try out

with the Chicago White Sox.

No matter what criticism
I've received thus far,

that doesn't cover the hole
that I lost with my father.

I think doing this is gonna
cover that hole that I miss.

[Reporter 2] I tell ya, I think
Michael Jordan is a gambler,

okay, I'm not going to sit here

and tell you that I think
he is a compulsive gambler.

[Reporter 3] The NBA is already
looking into the claims.

A league spokesman told
ESPN this afternoon

that the league would not
make any comment further-

[Reporter 4] But
he has been forced

to admit he lied
about his gambling.

[Reporter 5] When Jordan
was reported missing,

there was speculation
he had been kidnapped

because of gambling debt.

[Reporter 6] Jordan said, quote,

"I simply cannot
comprehend how others

could intentionally pour
salt in my open wound

by insinuating that faults
and mistakes in my life

are in some way connected
to my father's death."

[Michael] I've gotten myself
into situations that,

where I would not walk away.

And I've pushed the envelope.

Is that compulsive?

Yeah, it depends on
how you look at it.

If you're willing to
jeopardize your livelihood

and your family, then, yeah.

[Man] There is no question
that when Michael's father died,

it was right around
when all the gambling

was swirling around,

and we in the press,
somehow being who we are,

just couldn't help looking
to somehow put that together,

which was in fact,
sort of the bottom line

of why you even cover this

because you start hanging
around with these type of guys,

you get in trouble financially,
somebody gets hurt.

[Phil] During the finals of the east
against the New York Knicks,

Michael had gone down to
Atlantic City and gambled

and one of the writers for
the New York Times, Anderson,

had written a piece about
Michael and his gambling ,

this kind of thing.

And I think it kind
of got under his skin.

I don't think it
got under his skin

as much as it irritated him.

I left at 11:04,
that's what time my limo

was setting out to leave,

[Reporter] So you'll be
back in New York at what time?

Just an hour
and a half, 12:30,

I was in my bed
at one o'clock.

[Phil] There were some
things that were on

the edge of his personal
life that just took its toll,

that just wore at him,

and just took away some of
the shine of being up there

as an idol and an
American icon.

[Steve Kerr] I still have people coming
up to me today and say,

don't you think Michael was
forced to leave basketball

by David Stern 'cause
of the gambling issue?

It's the stupidest thing I
had ever heard in my life.

First of all, it
makes zero sense,

because Michael was
the golden goose.

He didn't break the law.

I mean, it's not possible
to keep a secret in the NBA.

So, this notion that somehow

the NBA suspended
the greatest player

in the history of the game,

forced him out of the game,

and now almost 20 years later,

nobody still knows about this,

is just ludicrous.

I always tell people, I say,
sometimes check the material

on David Stern's
pants legs around

that time if you
get an old clip,

'cause you'll see them worn out

from when he was down on
his knees begging Michael

not to leave the NBA.

[Michael] The thing that I looked at
in the death of my father,

unfortunately, it
happened at the hands

of another human being,
which in essence,

is very difficult to deal with.

Just the notion of being
able to kill someone.

But I had him for 32 years,

and he taught me
a lot in 32 years,

you know how many kids
get that opportunity?

Very few in today's society,

get the chance to spend that
much time with their parents

and get that type of influence.

I saw the relationship
between him and his father

and I'm not saying
it's any more special

between this viewer and
that viewer's father,

but it was special.

I remember his dad being there

after he won his
first championship.

I was standing about two feet

from them in the locker room,

and I just saw the
incredible joy they had.

So, their relationship
was really real.

And when people in the press,

I'm not taking
myself away from it,

started to at least
raise that issue,

certainly if not
the breaking point,

then almost the breaking
point for Jordan.

[crowd cheering]

[Michael] Maybe it was my own fault.

Maybe I led you to believe
it was easy when it wasn't.

Maybe I made you think
my highlights started

at the free throw line
and not in the gym.

Maybe I made you think
that every shot I took

was a game winner.

That my game was built

on flash and not fire.

Maybe it's my fault
that you didn't see

that failure gave me strength,

that my pain was my motivation.

Maybe I led you to believe

that basketball was
a God given gift

and not something I worked for

every single day of my life.

Maybe I destroyed the game.

Yo, Mars Blackmon
here, my main man.

Yo, Mars Blackmon here with
my main man, Michael Jordan.

Strike 3, Mike is
no Stan Musial.

But he's trying.

Say, hey, he's no Willie Mays.

But he's trying, man.

He's no Ken Griffey.

Yeah, but he's trying.

Go ahead, buddy.

[Bill Hardekopf] We didn't find out that
Michael was coming to Birmingham

until the day before.

Ron Schuller told me that
he would call me at 7:30

the day before opening day

and he would let us
know if Birmingham

was where Michael would be.

And sure enough, Ron
called me at 7:30 at home

and told me that Michael Jordan
would be a Birmingham Baron.

And once I picked
myself up off the floor,

I drove in to the Hoover Met

and we had our staff
meeting at eight o'clock.

And the reason it
was at eight o'clock

was because there was a press
conference in Chicago at 8:00

saying where Michael was
going to be assigned.

And at 8:05 outside
my office window,

we looked and we started to
see a couple cars driving up

that we did not recognize.

And what it was, it was
the first two people

that wanted to buy
tickets to opening night

because Michael
Jordan was coming.

And throughout the
rest of that day,

up until midnight that night,

there was a constant
stream of cars coming

into the Hoover Met.

Programs, programs!

[Reporter] The gates to
Michael Jordan's new kingdom,

10,000 fans raced
to find seats.

Some had been
waiting four hours.

[Reporter 2] They packed the
stands as early as four o'clock

with balls, bats,
gloves, basketballs,

anything for Michael
Jordan to sign.

Now, what do you think the odds

are of you getting
those cards signed?

About one in a million.

[Reporter 3] And they're
here from all over.

I came from Nashua,
New Hampshire.

[Reporter 4] You ladies
are from Maryland now,

I know you just didn't drive
down here to see Michael.

-Yes, we did.
-Yes, we did,

three o'clock this morning.

[Reporter 5] More season
tickets were sold in half a day

than in all of last year.

Where else can a fan see
Michael for under five bucks?

I'm better than a movie.

[Reporter] It's a much
different scene

outside the Hoover
Metropolitan Stadium tonight

than it was last night

when the Birmingham
Barons drew 3,300 fans

for their season opener.

Tonight, team
officials are preparing

to attract four times
that many.

[Bill] The phones never
stopped ringing.

When Michael was
first assigned here,

we had six phone lines.

That day, the first
call that we made

was to the phone company to try

and double that number
of lines.

Whenever we picked up the phone

to answer somebody's
call and hung up,

the phone instantly rang again.

Michael, what's it like
to be in the minor leagues?

Come on, these are the
kind of stupid questions

they're gonna ask you
down here.

Michael, are you decent?

Oh, look, Michael,
it's Mary Milton,

the only real estate
agent I've ever known

who has her own trading card,

she's gonna show you some houses you
might be interested in.

Well, when I got the phone
call from Bill Hardekopf,

who was the President
and the General Manager

of the Birmingham Barons,

and he told me
that Michael Jordan

was going to be
playing baseball,

and that I was gonna get
to be the lucky person

to help Michael find
his rental house.

I was actually one of the first

to go to the private
airport in Birmingham

to meet Michael as he stepped
off of his private plane.

Michael stepped off the plane

with the biggest
grin on his face.

And I introduced myself

as his personal
real estate agent,

that I was the realtor
for the Birmingham Barons,

and I would be the one
that would be working

with him to find his house

that he was going to
live in in Birmingham.

So, I asked Michael if we
were gonna ride in my car

or if we were going in his car.

And he let me know real
soon that we were going

to be riding in his
new Porsche.

So, it was pretty exciting.

Michael definitely
wanted a house

that had a basketball goal

and so he would come
out and play basketball

and shoot hoops.

And whenever he did,

the kids in the neighborhood
would always want to come over

and play basketball with him.

So, I'm sure that there's
a lot of young kids

that remember playing

with Michael Jordan when
he lived in Birmingham.

[bird chirping]

[Announcer] And
welcome to the magic city

of Birmingham, Alabama.

[Michael] Sports is
a tool that teaches,

it teaches you bad things,

it can also teach
you good things.

It's how you perceive
those things.

[Announcer] Look at this crowd, 13,416,

perhaps the biggest
turnout since-

[Michael] I've looked at
every experience that I've had,

negative and positive and
taken that as a positive.

I wouldn't change anything

because I think it would alter some of
the other things that have happened.

[Commentator] Let's
check the clocks,

it's 7:58 Central Time,
Birmingham, Alabama area,

here he is, right fielder,
Michael Jeffrey Jordan,

let's listen for a moment.

[fanfare music]

He has been called perhaps

the greatest basketball player ever
and in just a moment,

he will now be the Birmingham
Barons right fielder.

John Cornrwright will face-

[Reporter] Last night the
greatest basketball player ever

stepped up to bat in
his first official game

with the Birmingham Barons.

When Jordan comes up,

you don't have to know
a lot of baseball stats,

he doesn't have any yet.

[Reporter] In his first at bat,

he hit a pop fly,

and by the end of the night,

Michael Jordan was 0
for 3 at the plate.

I hope I'm not
judged on one game.

I just think that
over a period of time,

you're gonna have
nights like this.

[Announcer] Two
that kick the pitch,

swing, and a miss, and
Jordan has struck out.

[Michael] I had a
plan to play baseball.

And that was a dream my
father and I concocted the day

after the first time
we won a championship.

And if I was gonna do
it, I better do it now.

And with the death of my

that seemed to be the right
time to make that choice.

[crowd cheers]

I gave the dedication to the
game of baseball a true effort.

I wasn't there making any

I wasn't trying to
endorse any product.

I was truly there for
the love of the game.

[Jerry] It was absolutely
necessary for him

to get out of the spotlight.

Although, when he
went to Birmingham,

he wasn't exactly
out of the spotlight.

I don't think the Birmingham
Barons played to an empty seat,

at any ball game, at home
or on the road that year.

[Scott Tedder] It was like a
7th game of the World Series

every time we went to because
every game was sold out

and really rejuvenated
us playing,

playing 142 games in the summer.

It really gave us
some extra energy

'cause we knew the stadiums
were gonna be packed.

We knew the media
was gonna be there,

and also the scouts were
coming to see Michael,

but they could also
see us, too.

So, it gave us a great
opportunity to try

to get to the big
leagues just like Michael

was trying to get.

[Wayne Marlin] I would go up to
him after a game and say,

I need a quote on something
that happened in the game.

And he'd say, go
talk to Scott Tedder,

or go talk to Kenny Coleman,

they're the ones who
did something tonight,

I didn't do anything.

And I'd say, I'm
going to talk to them,

but I had to have a Michael
Jordan story every day,

I had to write a game story

and a Michael Jordan
story at every home game.

[crowd cheering]

[Kenny Coleman] For those of us that
didn't make the big leagues,

man, that was big
league atmosphere

everywhere you went.

It was just a tremendous
honor to get a chance

to spend that summer trying

to both become the best
baseball players we can

and seeing the impact that
that season had on just fans.

[Chris Pika] We set an attendance record
here of over 467,000.

Home and road, we
did close to 985,000

between all the parks.

It was like Elvis was in the
building every single night.

[Terry Francona] Every game was
sold out for a long time.

And a lot of games
that were televised.

We weren't kidding ourselves,

we weren't televised
a year before.

The year I was with Michael,

I did not get on
the same golf course

as the year after he left.

That was life with Michael,
there was a lot of perks.

I can't imagine
if he was able

to sign every single autograph,

but he was so gracious,

he spent an awful lot of
time trying to do that.

And there were lines
of people everywhere

to just get a glimpse of him,

driving to and from the stadium.

I was amazed at how
many people wanted

to get a hold of him or touch
him or ask him a question.

And again, he amazed
me at how he handled it

with such grace.

That's why I think he
liked the bus rides

so much in the southern league,

he was probably the one,

'cause he had a time

where he could be
like me and you

and people couldn't get at him,
and he could actually relax.

I'm Jim Thrasher, owner of
Thrasher Brothers Trailways.

Our company has been in
business for 38 years.

The bus business has been
very good to our family.

Actually, Michael
didn't buy the bus,

we worked out a deal with
motor coach industries

where he would be on the back
cover of Bus Ride magazine.

Thrasher brothers
actually owned the bus,

we didn't repudiate the fact

that Michael bought
the Barons a bus,

because that's a good story,

but we actually owned the bus

and operated the bus
under our authority.

[Michael] I'm not
too adjusted to royalty

that I can't ride a bus.

I don't have a problem with it,
as long as it's a luxury bus.

But I'm a part of the team.

[Phil] It was like, almost like
a death itself, because,

usually people
retire, they slip,

or something goes,

their career you
start to see fade,

go some blank, bam, gone,

not there, and very
little warning,

very little warning for
the fans, and the NBA.

Here he comes, here he comes.

[Roy Johnson] Michael Jordan's
first retirement

was like a hangover
for the NBA.

They weren't quite
prepared for it,

they didn't know
what to do about it,

it was like they
woke up the next day

and he was gone.

Thanks, Sherry, I think
everyone knows exactly

what the circumstances
are right now.

[Roy] Everyone looked
around and said, okay,

where is the camera,
where is the director?

Somebody cut this nightmare.

But it wasn't a nightmare,
it was a reality that the NBA

and Nike and others had
to scramble to deal with.

[Reporter] The Bulls
come into the post season

as the three time
reigning champs,

missing the man who
was essential to

minor league outfielder,
Michael Jordan.

It's hard to feel
sorry for Chicago-

[Steve] It was really so strange,
because his void was so glaring.

You could feel it in the crowd,

you could feel it with the
announcers and the media.

You could feel it with
the coaching staff,

it was just this huge void
that nobody could fill.

And yet, we were collectively
trying to fill it.

[Terry] I remember one night
watching the game

and they were up 6 or 7,

and Michael said,

the way the game was going,
they're not going to win.

And I was just sitting there
kind of half paying attention,

and he goes, what
they need isn't there.

And I didn't quite follow him,

and he was talking
about himself.

[Announcer] A 10 point
lead for the Knicks,

Oakley with 17 points,

they're standing and cheering
here down at the Garden.

[Man] You got to give
them a lot of credit.

A lot of people
say it was, down,

talking bad about them
because Michael wasn't there,

but they showed that they
were a tremendous team,

even though they
didn't have Michael.

[Terry] When he was hitting 205

in Birmingham and people
were taking shots,

I thought it was
unbelievable he was doing

what he was doing,
'cause it's not easy.

But the last time he played baseball,
he was 18 years old.

So, you're not even
sure if it's rust,

or if he could do it or not.

I remember in Memphis,

he was really going
through a tough time

and I actually didn't realize
how hard he was taking it

and he had said something
to one of the coaches

and then it kind of
came to my attention.

We stayed there after the
game one night in Memphis.

We talked for a little while,

I remember saying, hey, look,

what you've accomplished,

you are doing this,

you are beating yourself
up too much right now.

He'd earned the
right, in my opinion,

to enjoy the game of baseball

and enjoy trying to get better.

'Cause not everybody
on that team

is gonna make it
to the big leagues,

that's just the facts.

[Announcer] A guy
named Michael Jordan

will lead off the bottom
of the 7th inning here,

eight to three-

[Mike] Once we finally found out

that he was gonna be with us...

[Announcer] Jordan tonight 0 for 2,
Ricky slide out in the third...

[Mike] We had to start
all over basically,

because of where he was
in the batter's box.

[Announcer] This
will be the last time

we'll see Michael
Jordan hit tonight.

He was off the
plate, diving in,

it was gonna create a problem

and the scouts had told me,

they said the book
on him is pound him

with fastballs in
and he's an out.

[Announcer] Strike three.

[Rick] Yeah, they got him.

[Announcer] See that's the case, Rick,

where we talk about the
case of him staying back

and we'll see this again.

[Mike] So what we did
was we kind of squared

his stance up a little bit

and got him back a
little bit better.

Again, these were all
new fields for him.

It was a really tough
transition for him

because he had
never, great athlete,

but had never swung
the bat really.

When he played,
he was a pitcher.

What finally started to
happen about three weeks

into the season
and is all he saw,

he didn't see a
fastball in the zone,

everything was breaking balls.

He's so competitive
that he was gonna prove

that he was gonna prove
that he was gonna hit

every breaking ball that
was thrown up there.

[Announcer] Jordan
swings and pops it up.

Behind home...

[Mike] Michael Jordan's
work ethic was

unlike any player
that I have ever seen

and that's a true credit

to why he's had success.

He would get to the ballpark
early in the afternoon,

usually around 12:30,
somewhere in there

and we'd go right
to the cage and hit.

After that, we'd go to an
early batting practice session

and we'd hit regular
coaches pitch VP,

we'd hit off the
curve ball machine,

and then we would take regular
batting practice as a team.

He would come back in after VP

and take some more
swings in the cage.

Then just before the
game, get a few more.

Go in and play the game.

And then even after
the game was over,

after he'd answered all the
questions from reporters

and the media that was there,

what happened is he'd come back

in the cage after the game

and we would
continue to hit more.

Took your hands
to it the right way.

[Kirk Champion] It can be tough grind,

it can be a very tough league,

it's a very hot
and humid league.

And tonight after night play,

they're aren't like,
you play Tuesday

and then you play on Friday,

you play every night and
not many very off days

especially after the
All Star break in July,

you grinding it out
for quite a long time

and that's something I
think you really learn

to appreciate some of
these everyday players

playing 125-130 games
in the minor leagues,

it takes its toll.

[Jack Rouss] The first time I
ever met Michael Jordan

was about April 1994.

At the time, I had
four pool tables.

At one time he played four
people at the same time,

just to give them that,

to say they played
Michael Jordan,

which was unbelievable.

I mean, he went from
one table to another,

taking a shot here,
taking a shot there

and these people
were just astonished.

From that time out,

he came in periodically
here and there

and every night I'd
get phone calls saying,

is he there?

He came in a lot of
times and like I said,

it was something just see
Michael Jordan walking around

and associating
himself with my people.

It was just unbelievable.

It was just the
greatest experience

that you ever could imagine.

[Man] To watch a
guy that did not leave

any stone unturned,

and was gonna make
himself the best

and he was gonna get better everyday
no matter what he had to do.

I had never seen a player
that worked like that.

[Commentator] 1-1
pitch to Michael.

Looping drive, it will
score at least one.

[Mike] For a player to come
in at the AA level,

you are talking about the cream of the
crop players in minor league baseball.

They are the guys that are knocking on
the doors to play in the big leagues,

not only position players,
but especially pitchers.

Sometimes it takes guys
two, three, four years

to make the adjustments
that he made.

Once we went through
the curve ball stage,

he started realizing that
he could take advantage

of hanging breaker balls.

He realized the ones
that he had to lay off.

He started taking advantage
of hanging change-ups

and he was starting
to get stronger.

Be aggressive with this one.

By the end of July, he
started to drive balls

out of the ballpark
in batting practice,

and they weren't lazy
fly balls, wind blown,

they were line drive rockets.

[Rubin Grant] Of course you had those
true blue blood baseball fans

who was wondering
what is this guy

from the NBA doing
trying to play baseball

and some said didn't think

he should be out
there doing that,

that he was taking
the spot of somebody

who might have had a
real legitimate chance

to get to the big leagues.

I didn't feel he was
taking anybody's spot.

And I said, give him a chance,

I know he's 31 years old

and I have seen other guys come
through here, older players,

and they still had that dream
that they could one day get

to the big leagues,
so why not Michael?

I think if you
look at our system,

we would have had
a right fielder

if Michael Jordan wasn't here,

we weren't gonna play
with an empty spot.

There is certainly
somebody else

was gonna get those at bats,

but I don't think he stood
in the way of a prospect

who should have
been at this level.

[Michael] I was
really caught up into

that whole thing of baseball
and learning about it

and dealing with what
I had to deal with.

The new players who
were 10 years younger

than I am, maybe some, 11,

but yet they had an
attitude towards the game

that they truly love,

because it was just a
game, it was a dream

that they were fulfilling.

[Commentator] And
again, we pause, Michael-

[Michael] I kinda
lost that in the realm

of what was happening
to me in basketball.

[Commentator] Steps
in for the fourth time,

two of his first...

[Michael] I was on a
pedestal for so long,

that I forgot about the
steps to get to that.

I think that is what minor
league baseball did to me.

[Commentator] Fly
ball, deep to left again.

Ratcliff going back, at the
warning track looking up,

it is, God, oh
Jordan, he's done it!

[crowd cheering]

[Michael] Every time
I step on the diamond,

he's with me wherever I go.

Even though he's
not here physically,

he's here with me
mentally and spiritually.

[Announcer] And with two
outs and the bases empty,

here is Jordan who
struck out last time.

[Announcer] 2-1 pitch in
well the deep left field,

Bauer is looking up, this
Bauer goes, oh Jordan.

Won the ball game!


[Steven] Because I had been part of this
Sports Illustrated story,

where the cover
said Bag It Michael,

I felt a little guilt.

So I went down to Birmingham

and that's where my
eyes were opened.

I was totally blown away,

he was a totally
different player

than the player I had
seen in spring training.

He had a great swing,

he was hitting the
ball on the screws,

he looked really good.

He had turned himself
into a baseball player

and I was astounded.

And I said, my God, I
was wrong, we were wrong,

Sports Illustrated was wrong.

Well, after that, I actually wrote a
little story saying, guess what?

Michael Jordan is
actually becoming

a professional baseball player.

So when I turned this in,

they refused to write it.

It was clear that it
wasn't sub-standard

in executional writing,

they were being stubborn
about their stance

that Michael Jordan should
not be playing baseball.

[Mike] He ended up hitting
.255 in the fall league.

The fall league is the cream
of the crop players in AA.

These guys are
your top prospects,

the guys that are
definitely going probably

to big league camp
the next year.

And to see him go from
carry what he did in August

and carried out
to the fall league

against better competition,

I mean, it was exciting to see.

It was fantastic.

[Michael] Most of the people
looked at my batting average

and my strike outs

and consider that a
negative season for me.

I think the whole process

was a learning
experience for me.

Being out here makes
it more exciting

to get a fresh start
with what I've known

and what I've learned
over the years.

[Terry] He did more than some
of our legitimate prospects

did in Birmingham,
he stole 30 bases,

he drove in 50 runs,
he was getting better.

I think to be fair to him,

he would have had to
play a couple more years

before you can, you got to get 1200 at
bats before you can consider somebody

playing in the big leagues.

But I'll come back to
that original comment,

if somebody would have said,

"no," and he wanted
to stick to it,

he'd have found a way to
play in the big leagues.

[crowd cheering]

[Mike] The players
strike was looming,

they were using
replacement players,

and they asked Michael
if he was gonna play

as a replacement player.

He said, "I can't do that."

He said, "I'm a player
rep in another sport,"

and he said, "I can't
cross the picket line."

[Reporter] Million dollar players
and multi-million dollar owners

are unfortunately not the only
ones affected by this strike.

[Reporter 2] How long
will this strike last?

[Reporter 3] The owners lost their bid
to stay at last week's injunction,

restoring the original
work rules for players

and so we ensure the
season will open...

[Jerry] Well, we spoke on
the phone, he decided that,

"I don't want to be
a replacement player,

I think it's time for me
to go back to basketball."

Michael showed up for a day

and kind of shot around and
even scrimmaged one day,

so now all of a sudden
it was a possibility.

[Jerry] I think if it hadn't
been for the strike,

Michael would have
played next season.

I think Michael would have
made it to the major leagues.

[Michael] The time
that I stepped away

was the time where I was
being asked to be thrown

into a situation that
involved baseball strikes

and things of that nature
and that was never my intent.

I kindly walked away
before I was thrust

into that whole event.

[Reporter] Michael Jordan
announced he is returning

to basketball in a
two-word written statement.

Simply, I'm Back.

[Phil] I think he understood
that the ability

that he had was a gift

and that people he
played with were gifted,

but not the way he was gifted.

To be a really good team,

you had to bring
out all those gifts

and help your teammates
be better players.

I think he was capable
of doing that much better

in his second career as
an NBA basketball player.

I think he was much more
generous with his time.

I think he was much more
encouraging as a teammate.

[Michael] I have a
freedom to make a choice

and no one seemed
to understand that.

That I can walk
away from the game

and not worry about a lot
of things that happen,

the stardom, the money.

Those are all monitorial things

that doesn't mean
much to me anyway.

I play the game because
I love the game.

If I don't have a purpose,

I walk away from the game.

If that doesn't apply to what
people have in their minds

and their thinkers and
maybe some of their thoughts

about certain things,

I can't change that.

I walked away because
I choose to walk away.

Because I know
what the truth is.

And that's the only
way I'ma operate.

[gentle music]