The Cardinals had hoped Brian Jordan would spend the 1992 season in the minor leagues and get the at-bats he needed to continue his development as a baseball player. Instead, two games into their season, the Cardinals promoted Jordan and put him into their everyday lineup as the right fielder.
Twenty-five years ago, on April 8, 1992, Jordan made his big-league debut and drove in four runs for the Cardinals against the Mets at St. Louis.
Three months later, an overmatched Jordan would be back in the minor leagues.
However, his early-season experience with the 1992 Cardinals wasn’t for naught. Jordan proved he had the potential to succeed in the big leagues. That spurred him to make a fulltime commitment to baseball and end his professional football career.
Jordan was selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the June 1988 amateur baseball draft. He split his time in 1989, 1990 and 1991 playing baseball in the Cardinals’ minor-league system and playing football as a defensive back for the NFL Falcons. (Jordan had been drafted by the Bills but was released.)
In 1991, Jordan batted .264 in 61 games for Class AAA Louisville. When he reported to spring training in 1992, Jordan was hoping to earn a spot on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, even though he still was considering playing football for the Falcons that year.
Jordan had a good Grapefruit League season, batting .292 with seven RBI, but with St. Louis planning to go with a starting outfield of Pedro Guerrero in left, Ray Lankford in center and Felix Jose in right, it was determined Jordan should play every day in Louisville rather than be a Cardinals reserve.
On April 1, 1992, Cardinals manager Joe Torre told Jordan, 25, he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster.
“He took it all right,” Torre said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I told him, ‘You’re really close. You could make the team, but you couldn’t play and we want you to play, to get some at-bats.’ I think he understood. He shook my hand and thanked me for the opportunity.”
Said Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill: “He’s got an awful lot of confidence. He’s not afraid of anything. You’ve seen him fooled, taking one-hand swings _ and that’s an adjustment he’ll have to make. He knows he has to play every day. If he stayed here, he’d be sitting and that wouldn’t help his development at all.”
Call for help
Five days later, on April 6, 1992, the Cardinals opened the regular season at home against the Mets. Milt Thompson started in right field instead of Jose, who had strained his right hamstring.
The next night, Cardinals first baseman Andres Galarraga broke his right wrist when hit by a pitch from Wally Whitehurst.
With Jose and Galarraga headed for the disabled list, the Cardinals reversed course and called up Jordan. He arrived in St. Louis the morning of April 8 and was put in the lineup for that night’s game against the Mets.
Torre shifted Guerrero from left field to first base and inserted Bernard Gilkey in left field and Jordan in right.
“Jordan is going to contribute a lot and fill in well in the outfield,” said Cardinals third baseman Todd Zeile.
Torre placed Jordan in the fifth spot in the batting order, behind Guerrero and in front of Gilkey.
In his first big-league at-bat, in the first inning against Sid Fernandez, Jordan struck out on a 2-and-2 fastball.
Two innings later, facing Paul Gibson, Jordan stroked a two-run single off the glove of third baseman Bill Pecota and swiped second.
After Gibson struck him out in the fifth, Jordan contributed a RBI-double off Mark Dewey in the sixth and a RBI-groundout in the eighth. The Cardinals won, 15-7. Boxscore
Torre kept Jordan in the lineup, even though the rookie batted .197 (15-for-76) in April. When Jose came off the disabled list, Jordan got starts in left and center.
After batting .281 (16-for-57) in May, the Cardinals in June gave Jordan a $2.3 million three-year contract, with the stipulation he quit playing football.
After agreeing to the deal, Jordan went into a slump and began to press. It didn’t help that Falcons coach Jerry Glanville kept calling Jordan, trying to convince him to come back to football, according to the Post-Dispatch.
On July 12, the Cardinals returned Jordan to Louisville. He was batting .207 for St. Louis and he had more strikeouts (48) than hits (40).
“He didn’t take it very well,” Torre said of Jordan’s reaction to the demotion. “He was unhappy and mad, but he wasn’t disrespectful. He’s young. He’s impatient … He’s torn and distracted and he has to get himself back on track and get his confidence back. He’s not the same aggressive player we had earlier in the year.”
After several stops and starts, Jordan established himself as the Cardinals’ everyday right fielder in 1995.
In seven years (1992-98) with St. Louis, Jordan batted .291, with 671 hits in 643 games. He became a free agent after the 1998 season and signed with the Braves.