When talking about Michael Jordan’s impact on American pop culture, the Mars Blackmon commercials take up a large part of that conversation.
As they should. They’re unforgettable (Spoiler, though: It wasn’t just the shoes). Spike Lee’s character, which was originally created by Lee for the movie “She’s Gotta Have It,” was the perfect match for Jordan and his Air Jordan brand.
But Mars and Michael teamed up for a Nike baseball commercial, too. You might not remember that one from 1994 (I didn’t, to be honest). Watch.
It’s great, right? So good to see baseball legends in the spot with MJ, next to Spike Lee.
Stan Musial, the Cardinals Hall of Famer who passed away in 2013 at 92 years old, was the first smiling face. I asked Brian Schwarze, Musial’s grandson and caretaker late in Musial’s life, what Musial told him about the experience. He just started laughing.
“Spike Lee had turned to him and his line was supposed to be, ‘He’s no Stan Musial, but he’s trying,’” Schwarze said. “And Spike Lee said, ‘He’s no Stan Musial.’ And Stan looks at Spike and says, ‘You’re right, he is no Stan Musial.’”
Musial played 22 seasons with the Cardinals — he spent 1945 in the military — and retired with 3,630 hits (then a National League record), 475 home runs and a .331 batting average. He won three NL MVP awards and finished as the runner-up four other times.
Schwarze said the commercial was a highlight for Musial, who was 74.
“Oh, yeah, he had fun, as Stan always did,” Schwarze said. “He liked meeting everybody, and it was pretty cool to be in a commercial like that. It was a pretty short and sweet day for Stan. I would think that was his biggest commercial, especially on the national level. He did stuff locally, for Midas and a couple other places, but nothing like that.”
Willie Mays was up next. Mays, who earned 11 Gold Gloves, stole 338 bases and had a career 154.6 bWAR, watches Jordan running down a fly ball in the outfield. Lee says, “Say Hey! He’s no Willie Mays!” And Mays smiles and says, “But he’s trying!”
Then came Ken Griffey Jr., who was at the time baseball’s brightest star, but at 24 years old still a long way from his eventual Hall of Fame induction. He watches Jordan slide, swing and field the baseball and Lee says, “He’s no Ken Griffey.” Junior nods and says, “Yeah, but he’s trying.”
The final guest star was Bill Bucker, and both Jordan and Nike take a little dig at Jordan’s still-developing baseball skills. Lee says, “Michael’s no Bill Buckner.” The ball rolls between Jordan’s legs, and Buckner — a vastly underrated player known mostly for his infamous World Series error in 1986 — grins and says, “But he’s trying!”
It’s a well-done commercial — no surprise there — and a nice nod to baseball legends.