How Terry Francona Fed Into Michael Jordan’s Competitiveness Through Yahtzee

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Michael Jordan has never found a game, competition or sport he didn’t want to dominate.

The legendary basketball player is one of the most competitive athletes we’ve ever seen, as certainly evidenced by his six NBA titles.

Jordan’s competitive drive is also part of what led him to try out professional baseball during a brief hiatus from the NBA in the 1990s. His foray into hardball is well known by most casual fans at this point, but a recent oral history of MJ’s baseball days digs a little deeper into his journey.

Jordan joined the Chicago White Sox organization shortly after announcing his first retirement in 1993. The club eventually assigned him to the Birmingham Barons where Terry Francona, now a manager of 16 years in the major leagues, was Jordan’s skipper.

Francona recalled Jordan’s competitive spirit in the Complex oral history, remembering the time Jordan became captivated by the game Yahtzee! and the lengths Francona went to in order to teach the Hall of Famer.

We played a lot of Yahtzee. Was he competitive? He’s competitive in everything.

I’ll tell you a story. We were in Zebulon, North Carolina. This is the first time he’s back in Carolina to play baseball, so it’s a big deal. Everybody wants to talk to him. Some pretty big-name guys were there.

This was before they built the clubhouses there, so we were out in this trailer. After the game, me and the coaches were in there playing Yahtzee. Michael came by and saw us and said, “Hey, what are you guys doing?”

And I said, “F—, man, weren’t you ever a kid? We’re playing Yahtzee.”

“Well, teach me.”

“Sure, Mike. Any time.”

“No, teach me now.”

So I had to run out and tell all the media that Mike was in the cage, working with Barney on his swing, while we taught him how to play Yahtzee. We played the rest of the season. Do you know how many games of Yahtzee you can play on a 12-hour bus trip?

We’re guessing Jordan probably won his fair share of games, too, considering the fact, you know, he seemingly succeeds at everything he does.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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