In one realm, at least, Tim Tebow is the equal of Michael Jordan. On Sunday, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL washout turned minor league baseball player hit his third home run of the season for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, whacking a pitch over the fence in left for a solo shot. The dinger not only helped pull Tebow out of what had been a gnarly slump—Tebow was 0-for-his-last-17 going into the weekend's action before hitting a double on Saturday, then going deep on Sunday as part of a two-hit day—but it also moved him into a tie with the man to whom his Quixotic baseball quest has inevitably been compared: Michael Jordan.
Jordan's doomed stint in minor league baseball—a season with the Double A Birmingham Barons in 1994, amid his sabbatical from the NBA—ended with His Airness hitting just three home runs in 127 games and looking wildly overmatched all the while. This august publication, meanwhile, gave him some rather terse career advice just a few weeks into his new job: Bag it. Alas, Jordan didn't take SI's advice that March and slogged through a season with not much in the way of highlights before deciding that basketball was the only way forward, returning to the Bulls in 1995.
Despite history showing just how difficult the jump from one sport to the other is—particularly in picking up baseball for the first time in years and making a go at it despite never playing it at a professional level, just like Jordan 20 years ago—Tebow is currently hacking away in the South Atlantic League. And with Tebow matching Jordan in home runs, what better time to see how the one-time White Sox wannabe and current Mets hopeful stack up, head to head, in their second sports?
There are a few caveats to offer here. For starters, Jordan (who was 31 when he joined the Barons) did his work at a higher level of the minors, and a ruthlessly difficult one at that; Tebow plays for a team on which he's the oldest player by four years and is roughly seven years older than the league on average. Tebow has also only hit the quarter mark of Jordan's career total. But either way, it's a good look at just how hard it is to succeed in baseball, even in the minors: two talented athletes who starred in their respective sports, now struggling to find traction.