Managing Boston Is Nothing Compared To Managing Michael Jordan
Terry Francona has been in professional baseball when he won a World Series managing the Boston Red Sox, may be his most magical season, 1994 may his most memorable. For most in baseball,was about the strike. For Terry Francona, it was all about Michael Jordan. Shortly after the passing of his father, the ultra-competitive and motivated Jordan left the game of basketball to prove he could do what Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were doing – excel at baseball as well as another professional sport. Hitting .202 with 3 HR and 51 RBI in 127 games for the AA White Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons may not necessarily be succeeding, but at least he tried and it seemed to spark a genuine love for playing that he carried back with him to the NBA in 1995.Terry Francona was Jordan’s manager for the Barons. He got to Mike not be like Mike and learn about his competitiveness. They actually became good friends, more like peers – separated in age by just four years – than manager and player. And they remain friends today. So when a star like Dustin Pedroia, who grew up watching Jordan win six NBA championships and star in countless commercials, broke his foot, it wasn’t players with similar injuries like Yao Ming and Bill Walton that Francona called. It was Mike.Current Boston Red Sox manager and former Birmingham Barons manager Terry Francona joined Dale and Holley on WEEI in Boston to discuss managing Michael Jordan in the minor leagues, having Jordan call Dustin Pedroia to talk about their similar injuries, the 30 for 30 documentary, Jordan Rides the Bus on Jordan’s year in baseball and the competitiveness of guys like Jordan, Pete Rose and Dustin Pedroia.
On if he really have Michael Jordan call Pedroia and talk to him about injuries:
“Pedey was talking about it the other day and saying something about how he thought Michael had the same injury. Now, Pedey has had 17 guys that have had the same injury, Bill Walton to Yao Ming. So, I was kind of messing around with him and I thought Pedey would kind of get a kick out of it if I called MJ. I told him, ‘Hang on a minute, I’ll get him on the line.’ Well, five minutes later we had Michael and I think Pedey got a kick out of it. I don’t call Michael very much just because I know how much people bug him. But because of Pedey, I knew that Michael would enjoy talking to him, and he did. He was almost fatherly in his advice. He was like, ‘I went through this, it’s tough, you got to listen.’ Pedey was all ears and that was good. When guys like Michael Jordan talk, people are apt to listen more.”
On if he watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Jordan:
“I actually watched part of it and I thought maybe because I lived through it, I actually thought it was kind of disappointing. They were interviewing the real estate lady and I could have done without all of that… Then they used, and I don’t know why, a stunt double and I never did quite figure that out. They had so much footage of him playing baseball, again I’m not a producer, but it didn’t do much for me.”
On if he thinks that if baseball hadn’t been on strike next year, Michael would have continued to play baseball:
“Yes, yes I do. I think when we were going through that very difficult time in baseball. I think it gave him an opportunity to do a ton of thinking. He didn’t want to get placed in a really difficult situation with the guys that were crossing and the replacement players and it gave him a reason to go back to basketball. I also think that when he went back, he enjoyed playing more. I remember it was on a Sunday and he was on his way to the game and we were at the ballpark and he called from his car. He goes, ‘You know what, I just wanted to tell you, I enjoy basketball more now. I watch what you guys do and you love what you guys do.’ And I remember sitting there thinking, ‘You know what, that’s pretty cool.’”
On how Jordan played in the Arizona Fall League after Francona’s season:
“He did a good job, he did a really good job. He was starting to get the hang of it. He was so hungry for the lingo and he always watched. He was really good for me because I knew him so well by then that he helped with a lot of the younger guys’ attitudes and how to do things. We had some guys with a few issues and he was helpful in a lot of areas.”
On how Jordan helped him in pickup basketball:
“Yeah, we had a couple blowouts. We got in an argument on the golf course one day. I remember pulling some clubs out of his bag. I was mad at him. On the basketball court, he was screaming at me. Those stories about his competitiveness, those aren’t exaggerated.”
And on if Pedroia is like that:
“You know who he reminds me of? Yeah, Pedey is a good name, Pete Rose is a good name. I think those are guys that are the best at what they do. They don’t feel like you can beat them, ever. That’s probably why they lose so many bets, they always think they’re going to win.”
Listen to Terry Francona with Dale and Holley on WEEI in Boston.