Terry Francona Tells Michael Jordan Stories

AUDIO-Beaver County native with Cook & Joe

Jeff Hathhorn
May 21, 2020 - 2:54 pm
Michael Jordan on the bench

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – Before he was a World Series winning manager in Boston or AL Pennant winner with Cleveland, Terry Francona worked in Double A Birmingham, and managed Michael Jordan.

It was when Jordan quit basketball following three straight championships with the Chicago Bulls in 1994.

Francona said a big difference for Jordan, he wasn’t the best player in baseball and was getting challenged.

“He said every time someone would ask him ‘I’m the worst player on the team and I have the most to learn’,” Francona said.  “So that made it really easy to be patient with him because the one thing we ask and the one thing he did better than anything, he respected baseball.”

“He was so hungry to learn everything about baseball.  Whether it was the lingo, just everything.  His ears were always open and I loved that about him.”

It wasn’t always smooth or without emotions.  The New Brighton native remembered when a pick-up game or rec game started with players and coaches during down time, it was on with Jordan.

“It didn’t have to be basketball,” Francona recalled on 93.7 the Fan Thursday.  “It could be ping-pong, it could be tennis, it could by Yahtzee.  He didn’t want to beat you.  He wanted to beat you into oblivion.  I saw that said on ‘The Last Dance’ so many times and I would laugh.  Because it is true.”

“I’ve seen him break ping-pong paddles.  I’ve seen break tennis rackets.  I’ve seen him yell at me on the golf course.  The guy just doesn’t want to win, he wants to pound you into oblivion.”

Francona even got a chance to play basketball with likely the greatest player ever.

“The first pass he ever threw to me, I dislocated my pinky finger,” Francona said, admitting it was dislocated a few times before.  “I was so embarrassed, I didn’t tell anybody.  I just pulled it back in and kept playing because I was humiliated.  I didn’t want anyone to know.”

He remembers a pick-up game to 11 and after three straight wins with Jordan on his team, Francona said his knees hurt and he was tired.  Francona said he took the last shot and after a long rebound, the other team scored and they lost.

Francona said he was relieved.  And then Jordan approached him.

“He came up next to me and he goes ‘I always shoot last’,” Francona told Cook and Joe.  “And I looked at him and I didn’t say anything and he goes ‘seriously I always shoot last’.  He was (upset).”

“He got about three steps ahead of me and I said ‘now you know how I feel when I try to watch you hit a curve ball’.”

“And he hit the floor.  When you had the ability to treat him as anybody else, he was as happy as he could get.  Now you had to earn his trust, but once you did, he loved being one of the guys.”

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