San Francisco, California born Kevin Jordan starred on the diamond at Lowell High School in San Francisco.
The versatile multi-position player was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 10th round of the 1989 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft out of Canada College in Redwood City, California.
He was selected a year later, this time by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 1990 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft after playing college ball at Nebraska-Lincoln.
Jordan spent seven seasons in Major League Baseball, all with the Philadelphia Phillies. The utility infielder and pinch hitter played from 1995 through the 2001 season for the Fightin’ Phils.
Jordan also spent a few years playing in the Australian Baseball League for the Brisbane Bandits during Major League Baseball’s offseason. After his retirement from the game, Jordan went on to manage the Bandits. He’s also spent time as a part-time color analyst for Phillies radio broadcasts.
The retired ball player is now the owner and operator of www.kjhitting.com, where he spends time as a baseball and softball instructor in Belmont, California.
We chatted with him about his favorite baseball cards, his least favorite card, a memorable interaction with his hero, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and much more.
Tony Reid-Your first cards were produced in the minor leagues from 1990 to 1994. Your Rookie Card appeared in 1994 Bowman. When was the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
Kevin Jordan-It was the Oneonta cards. The cool thing about the Oneonta cards in 1990 is that we have a mountain behind us there in upstate New York. I think we flew in to New York City and bussed to Oneonta. I always thought of New York as being New York City. I didn’t realize once you got out of New York City that there were mountains and rolling hills. It is beautiful in upstate New York. Every baseball card that you see from our team that year you see the mountains in the background. I that was pretty cool.
TR-In total you have just under 100 cards. Do you have a favorite?
KJ– I had some pretty cool ones in Australia in the Australian Baseball League. I had some action shots that I liked. Playing with the Giants, I had one were Deion Sanders was sliding in on me. I had one with Kirt Manwaring on it. I grew up in San Francisco, so that was cool. I think that was in 1995 when they took the pictures for those cards. All of them were cool for me. As I have gotten older I have seen a few cards that I didn’t see when I was younger. My wife gives me a hard time, my worst card was from 2001, I took a picture with a frown on my face. I still remember telling a member of our media relations, Lee Tobin, ‘Lee, I can’t see. The sun is in my eyes.’ She said ‘Don’t worry KJ, they won’t use a bad picture.’ I was squinting. I’ll be dammed if that isn’t my picture on that card. It was me sitting there frowny face because I couldn’t see.
We used to discuss it during Spring Training. Who picks these pictures? Do they sit around laughing saying ‘let me use the worst picture ever.’? I remember one of Gregg Jeffries’ cards. It was a picture of him falling backwards. It was a pitch that was up and in and he is falling backwards. That’s his card. It’s an honor to have cards, though. The first cards you ever get, man, what an honor. Even to this day when I receive cards, it’s amazing.
TR-Spending nearly a decade in the Majors with the Philadelphia Phillies and a number of years as a star in Australia, do you have a room or office where you have memorabilia displayed?
KJ– When I was in Philadelphia when I was done playing I displayed things I had in my study. Do you remember the old Starting Lineups? I had a person actually take one of those and they painted me on it. They painted my number, my jersey and they put ‘KJ’, my name on it. That is probably one of my most prized possessions. Starting Lineup never produced one of me. Someone took the time and made this. That is probably the coolest thing for me. I had a lot of things in boxes. I was looking at a baseball I had signed. Wait a minute, does that say Phil Rizzuto? Oh, my God. I forgot in 1991 in the Florida State League he came in the locker room and signed a ball for me. I have a Hank Aaron signed ball. I think he was the spokesman for Arby’s. It was in the mid 1990’s. We had Bill Clinton come in to Spring Training one year, so he signed a ball for me.
The funniest ball signing story… Mike Schmidt is my favorite player. I was born and raised in San Francisco but I was a diehard Phillies fan. When you talk about seeing Schmidt for the first time or seeing Gary Maddox, Greg Luzinski, or hell, meeting Lefty. I had the chance to meet all of these guys that I am still to this day, weirdly in awe of. I think it was 2002, the year I got released, and Schmidt had come down because he was going to help Pat Burrell, Scott Rolen and the big guys. Schmidt was my guy. I saw his last game against Atlee Hammaker at Candlestick Park. I never got the chance to tell him this. I keep waiting for the day. I’m telling this to John Vukovich. Vuk was my baseball daddy. Everybody knew how tight we were. I was telling him that I wanted to talk to Schmidt. Everybody was around him and I just wanted to get my time. I was telling Vuk all of this in the training room one day. He was telling me about his favorite player and how he met him as a kid.
I got to the field early the next day. I was super excited. I get to my locker and at the top of the locker is an autographed ball. I grabbed the ball and it was from Mike Schmidt. Schmidt had just left the day before. He had put a ball in my locker. I’m sitting there like, Wow! Vuk must have told him. He must have told Schmidt! This is so cool! I was talking to myself. I look up and Mike Lieberthal is the locker next to me and he has an autographed ball from Mike Schmidt. Hold on. I step back from the lockers and look and every damn player has an autographed ball from Mike Schmidt. Vuk didn’t tell him. I thought this was a special moment for me and it turns out he left a ball for every damn player in Spring Training. I still have it.
I think one of the things that, especially the players in the era that I played in, guys were maybe a little embarrassed, or maybe you didn’t really want to do it or guys might give you a hard time. In hindsight I wish I would have done it more. Schil (Curt Schilling) did it right. When McGwire was hitting all of those home runs Schil after batting practice said ‘Dude, look.’ He had gotten a McGwire signed jersey. When Vladimir Guerrero was young, Schil got a nice autographed jersey. Schil had so many signed jerseys in his house and in his closet. I have been there and I saw it. Schil could do it because he was the man. I was a little pinch hitter dude.
Ryne Sandberg, I was at his final game. Vuk was with the Cubs for years. Vuk knew Ryno. We were at an early BP. Ryno came out of the batting cage in right field at Wrigley Field. I was standing with Vuk near second base. Ryno comes up and he is talking to him. I kept thinking man, I should ask him for his bat right now. It was Ryne Sandberg Day. I just remember thinking I should ask him. Still to this day, I think about that. I wore 23. He wore 23. He played second base. I tried to play second base. As a minor leaguer, he was probably my favorite player. He had some pop. I had some pop in the minors. The older you get you think about those types of things. As a younger person you are a little more self-conscious about approaching or asking someone, especially from a memorabilia standpoint. In hindsight, I wish I would have asked more.