SportsPulse: Breakfast, trash talking and guys being guys. That’s how B.J. Armstrong recalls his now now famous breakfast with Michael Jordan in 1995 that ultimately helped accelerate his return to the NBA.
The autographed baseball bat was neglected and forgotten, sitting in a car trunk for 13 years, and never displayed in a home.
It’s a Louisville Slugger, model C-271, 34 inches, 32 ounces, with a light coat of pine tar on the lower handle.
It also happens to be autographed by Michael Jordan.
It’s the bat he used to produce two hits in an Arizona Fall League game with the Scottsdale Scorpions in 1994, the year he signed with the Chicago White Sox and announced he was retiring from the NBA.
Hollywood actor/stuntman Tony Todd, who was a stuntman in the blockbuster movie “Black Panther,’’ and is a regular in celebrity softball games throughout the country, simply forgot he even had it.
Now, 26 years later, and four months after the final episode of “The Last Dance” documentary that sent Jordan’s memorabilia through the roof, Todd can’t help but wonder what it’s worth.
If Jordan’s game-worn Nike sneakers from 1985 just sold for $560,000, how valuable is an autographed, game-used bat, including a picture of Todd and Jordan together in the clubhouse with a letter of authenticity?
He’s about to find out, putting the bat up for auction beginning Saturday on Memory Lane.
Michael Jordan, as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions, prepares to bat against the Tempe Rafters in an Arizona Fall League game in 1994. (Photo: Jeff Robbins, AP)
“I’m not in desperate need to sell it, and I don’t want to give it away,” Todd tells USA TODAY Sports, “but there can’t be that many Jordan bats signed.”
Todd had no idea he was even sitting on a potential pile of money until a fan sent him a note during the Jordan documentary asking if he still had the bat Jordan gave him, which Todd had once posted on social media.
“My God, I had totally forgotten I had the M.J. bat to be honest,” Todd said. “When the guy mentioned it, I sprinted through the house like Carl Lewis.
“I’m running around the house, going, ‘Where’s the bat? Where’s the bat?’ I couldn’t find it.’
Finally, it hit him.
He raced to his 1966 Pontiac LeMans sitting in his garage, opened the trunk, and there it was.
The memories started pouring back from that November, 1994 day as Todd remembered how he got the treasure in the first place.
Todd, a devout baseball fan, happened to be in Phoenix for a charity event. He was in his hotel room when he got a call from a friend, William Fuller, the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end, who went to North Carolina with Jordan.
“He says, ‘Hey, you want to see M.J.,'” Todd said. “I said, ‘Michael Jackson?’ He says, ‘No fool, Michael Jordan. He’s playing with the Scottsdale Scorpions and Nomar Garciappara is on the team.'”
Todd and Fuller enjoyed the game, went into the clubhouse afterwards, and Jordan told him he looked familiar. Todd asked him if he had ever seen “Little Big League.’’ Jordan acted like Todd was the celebrity in the room. Todd played Mickey Scales in the movie, and later was a regular on the “Anger Management’’ series, starring Charlie Sheen.
They talked, Jordan called a clubhouse attendant over to bring him his bat, signed it, and took a picture together with fellow actor Malcolm Norrington (“Boyz n the Hood”, “Strange Days” and “Higher Learning”). They went out together that evening and met up with former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley.
Now, 26 year later, they are reunited again, through the forgotten existence of a bat, one that may be worth a small fortune.
“The Jordan documentary brought so much attention to the Michael Jordan memorabilia and the Chicago Bulls’ memorabilia markets,” said Daniel Wulkan, a partner at Memory Lane and the sports expert on “Pawn Stars.” “Prices have exploded. The industry is absolutely on fire.
“And something like this, probably the only Jordan-used bat used in existence on the market, will create a lot of interest. To have the photo, the whole story behind it, just adds extra value.”
Todd, who was a host for Topps Trading Cards in spring training, has other autographed bats in his house, too. There’s one from Pete Rose, another by Sammy Sosa and a game-used bat from Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., too.
“There are some bats I don’t have any allegiance too,” Todd said, “but the Griffey bat will go to my grave with me.”
And no, just in case you’re wondering, there are no other valuable possessions forgotten in the trunk of his car.
“I really didn’t think the M.J. bat had any value,” Todd says. “I never even had it on display. Crazy, huh?
“What can I say?
“I guess it takes a lot to impress me.”
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale.