Michael Jordan

updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

These he number itself, 202, hovers just above baseball's dreaded Mendoza line, the game's eponymous index of batting-average futility. But Michael Jordan, basketball's nonpareil reborn as an outfielder, just won't be discouraged. "I put up some other decent numbers," says His Airness, 31, pointing to the 17 doubles, 51 runs-batted-in and 30 stolen bases he posted last summer for the minor league Birmingham Barons.

When Jordan changed vocations last spring, he said he was fulfilling a fantasy he had shared with his late father, James, murdered just a few months before. But purists blanched, calling it nothing but a box-office gimmick. And when Jordan proved amateurish at first, the stilettos came unsheathed.

But then labor strife stole the major leagues' summer, and suddenly there was something enchanting about a megamillionaire taking extra batting practice in some bush-league backwater. It all came together on July 30, when Jordan crossed home plate after slugging his first home run and pointed skyward, saluting his father, "My father believed in me from day one," he says. 'This is my dream."

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