Hall of Famer Joe Torre Once Had Harsh Words for Michael Jordan Trying to Master Baseball

When it came to sports in the ’90s, there was no bigger name than Michael Jordan. He was a global NBA superstar. While no figure in baseball had as high of a profile as Jordan did, the MLB manager who was one of the best known in his respective field was Joe Torre. 

The duo actually has a lot in common. Both won multiple championships in the decade. Both overcame long odds to succeed at the top of their sport. And both are now synonymous with winning. 

Another thing the two have in common was the sport they played. While Jordan is best known for his NBA days, he also took a turn at baseball for a brief spell. At that point, Torre was no longer a player but had moved to a managerial role. Did you know the baseball legend didn’t approve of Jordan’s attempt to be a two-sport star? 

Joe Torre had a great career on and off the baseball diamond

Before becoming a manager, Torre was a successful player. According to Baseball-Reference, he had 2,342 hits in an illustrious career where he played for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, and New York Mets. After he retired, he moved to the dugout, where he’d first manage the Atlanta Braves.

Torre later managed the Cardinals. He was under .500 as a manager until he went to New York to skipper the Yankees. When Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner hired Torre prior to the 1996 season, the New York media ridiculed the move. A New York Daily News headline even referred to him as “Clueless Joe.” They would all be proven wrong, however.

Torre became the second-longest tenured manager in Yankee history, going on a historic run of success. In his 12 seasons at the helm in Yankee Stadium, he accomplished the following: 

  • Four World Series titles (1996, 1998-2000)
  • On top of the American League championships in the years the Yanks won the World Series, he also won pennants in 2001 and 2003
  • 12 consecutive playoff appearances

Torre went on to manage the Dodgers from 2008 to 2010. He clearly knows a thing or two about winning, which means he likely appreciated Jordan as a basketball player. As a baseball player, however, is a different story. 

What Joe Torre thought of Michael Jordan’s baseball career

Jordan stunned the sports world when, in 1993, he retired from basketball and announced he would attempt to play baseball. Many were critical of the choice, adopting the mindset that Jordan would have a much more difficult time than he realized. One of those people was Torre. 

According to Ryan Fagan, a writer from The Sporting News, Torre gave the following explanation to the Sporting News at the time for why he thought Jordan would have a harder time playing baseball than he did playing basketball: “The basket is in the same place all the time.” 

Torre’s words would prove prescient. Jordan performed impressively for a first-timer, but he wasn’t good enough to make it to the big leagues. According to Baseball-Reference, he only managed 88 hits and a .202 batting average in 497 plate appearances for the Double-A Birmingham Barons. 

Where are Joe Torre and Michael Jordan now?

NBA star Michael Jordan practices bunting in front of reporters in 1994
Michael Jordan bunts in front of reporters in 1994 | Al Bello/Staff

Jordan is currently the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. His failure to catch on in MLB didn’t dissuade him from more success in basketball. He’d win three additional titles with the Chicago Bulls, retire, and then pull off an improbable comeback with the Washington Wizards several years later. 

As for Torre, his story also had a happy ending. The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted him as a manager, in large part due to his four World Series wins. After retiring from managing duties, he became a top executive within MLB, currently serving as an assistant to the commissioner. 

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