With most sports shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, “The Last Dance” documentary chronicling Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, has been a big hit with fans. We don’t have live-action sports at this time, so it’s the next-best thing. Even as a Pacers fan, I am completely addicted to it.
There’s a baseball angle, too. In the coming episodes, the documentary will be discussing Jordan’s first retirement from the NBA, where he tried his hand as a professional baseball player. In 1994, Jordan played in 127 games for the Birmingham Barons, the White Sox’s Double-A affiliate.
He hit just .202/.289/.266, but that’s pretty damn impressive for someone who hadn’t played organized ball for years. He also stole 30 bases. Our own R.J. Anderson recently caught up with a few of his minor-league teammates, who recalled M.J.’s time in. Birmingham.
He never officially got to the MLB stage before returning to the hardwood. But Jordan did get the chance to suit up at a historic ballpark. M.J. appeared in an exhibition game at Wrigley Field in a White Sox uniform against the Cubs in April 1994. This was back before interleague play. The Cubs and White Sox played an exhibition game every year from 1985-95.
Since they were selling tickets to an exhibition game in Chicago, Jordan was in the starting lineup. The announced attendance was 37,825. Not too shabby for a game that didn’t count, huh?
Jordan played right field and hit sixth in the lineup on April 7, 1994 in Wrigley Field.
Jordan went 1 for his first 3 with an RBI single. Then, the big play. With a runner on base and the White Sox trailing by one, Jordan dug in against Cubs pitcher Chuck Crim.
Keep in mind, Harry Caray was the Cubs’ play-by-play announcer and was solidly a homer in the booth. For Jordan, though, Harry went nuts with excitement. The Cubs players didn’t sound much different. Take at look at the at-bat:
“I wanted him to hit for the cycle,” Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston said to the Chicago Tribune at the time. “He might have been playing for the Sox, but he is Chicago. Let’s not fool ourselves.”
Cubs and White Sox fans united in cheering for their basketball hero.
Jordan ended up going 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI. It would be his only appearance in a major-league ballpark (not counting this first erratic pitch in 1998). Here’s a look at his day at the plate:
He returned to the Bulls late in the 1994-95 season and his career on the diamond was short-lived. But, for one glorious day, Jordan looked the part at one of baseball’s most-storied venues.