By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Unlike some professional athletes who have allowed great riches to warp their personalities, Jordan has somehow managed to take on added dignity. He is willing to demean himself while learning his new trade, and he somehow seems almost cleansed by the constant humiliation of displaying his meager skills as a hitter and fielder in front of the professional baseball scouts who sit behind home plate watching his every move, sometimes shaking their heads in derision.
I never thought that people with natural skills like those Jordan is endowed with ever spent time worrying about whether people liked or admired them.
But Jordan does. He once confided to Bob Greene, the Chicago Tribune columnist, that he would never run for public office because even if he got the necessary 51 percent of the vote and won, he wouldn't be able to stand that 49 percent of the voters didn't like him.
Greene mentioned the standup comedian who proves a knockout to everyone in the audience except one man who occupies a front table and sits there wearing a frown.
"I know," Jordan said. "I go through a big part of my life seeing that guy who isn't laughing."
Basketball was a game Jordan dominated. In his time in the NBA, there were only a few figures who carried the league into its present position.
There was Magic Johnson. There was Larry Bird. There was Charles Barkley.
But above all, there was Michael Jordan.
The size of the basketball court, the intimacy of the setting and the rules of the game made it possible for Jordan to be at the center of the action for almost the entire game. Even when he went to the bench, fans kept glancing toward him to see when he was coming back. When he was out on the floor, Jordan directed the action. He took all the important shots. When the game was on the line, he handled the situation. When his teammates thought he took too many shots, they would complain about playing "Michaelball." When Jordan didn't think his teammates played well, he would complain to the press about his "supporting cast." He was so much above the crowd that when George Bush invited the victorious Bulls to the White House, Jordan declined, saying he had another appointment. He went to play golf instead.
Now that he is an outfielder for Scottsdale, his part has been reduced to that of a bit player. The crowds come to see Jordan play. They want to cheer him, but there is so little opportunity. The baseball rules are against him. In order to watch him in the outfield, you have to bring along a strong pair of binoculars.
As an outfielder, he can look forward to handling only four or five batted balls in the course of a nine-inning game. He will come to bat four times. If he gets on base, there may be a chance for him to steal or to advance to home plate when another player's base hit advances him. That's it.
Contrast this with the constant excitement of an NBA game with the score shifting back and forth and Michael Jordan--Air Jordan--leading the fast break, stealing a pass or making a three-point shot that brings the crowd to its feet. Remember his mad solo dash the length of the America West Arena floor with a stolen pass in the final minute of the sixth game that the Bulls finally won? In those days, he was everywhere at once. Now, he is not even a face in the crowd.
During his years in the NBA, Jordan made number 23 so famous that even now children feel they are basking in his glory when they sport the souvenir shirts at the Scottsdale games.
As he comes to bat again in Scottsdale Stadium, those who remember those glory days shout to him from their seats.
"Come on, Michael, we love you. Get a hit, Michael."
Jordan's team, the Scorpions, beat the Chandler Diamondbacks, 6-3. Jordan goes hitless at bat, but reaches base twice on walks and scores two runs. He caught one fly ball and picked up a base hit along the foul line and returned it to the infield.
After the game, Jordan spoke briefly. There are now Jordan rules about interviewing. If you want to ask him anything about any matter other than the events of the game, you must contact his agent in Washington and state your case.
Jordan, sticking to his rule, says that he has been working very hard on his base running. He thinks it will enhance his contribution to the team. "All during the season at Birmingham, Terry Francona let me run, and that put me in a position to help the team."
It's Saturday at Chandler's Compadre Stadium.
The Scottsdale Scorpions ride to the game from Scottsdale Stadium in their uniforms. The crowd has arrived early. They are waiting for Jordan as he departs from the bus.
The Scorpions' team bus is sleek, with darkened windows. It is much like the one Jordan reportedly supplied with funds from his own pocket for the Birmingham team after observing the dilapidated condition of the team's own bus. The cost to Jordan has been estimated at between $40,000 to $60,000.