In the early 1990s, Michael Jordan was at the peak of his powers and the most recognizable figure in all of American sports. He had just led the Chicago Bulls to an unforgettable threepeat of NBA titles, the only championships in franchise history at the time. However, little did the American public know that their sporting landscape was about to drastically change.
On October 6th, 1993, MJ announced that he would be retiring from basketball at the age of just 30, citing that he had lost his desire for the game following the murder of his late father just three months prior. Barely four months later, Jordan shocked the sporting world by signing a Minor League Baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox. Fans were gobsmacked at the unheard-of change of professions, however, they were also curious to see what he could offer his new sport.
In modern times, the White Sox aren’t one of MLB’s household names. They are without a World Series success since 2005, and in the current campaign, MLB Vegas odds and futures make them +7500 outsiders for glory this season. Back in 1993, they were about to reach the playoffs for the first time in a decade, however, MJ wouldn’t play any part in their success.
Although Jordan’s baseball career was short-lived, it still remains a fascinating chapter in his life that is worth exploring. In this article, we will examine the untold story of Michael Jordan’s ill-fated spell in baseball.
The Decision to Join Baseball
Jordan’s love for baseball dates back to his childhood, when he would often play the sport with his father. After his father’s death, MJ decided to fulfill his father’s dream of seeing his son play professional baseball. Four months on from his basketball retirement, he would sign with the White Sox but he would only turn out in the Minor League. In the 1994 campaign, he would turn out for the Birmingham Barons, before representing the Scottsdale Scorpions in the fall of the same year.
The Challenges of Playing Baseball
Baseball turned out to be a far greater challenge for Jordan than he had anticipated, despite his famed athletic prowess. His speed and agility were hampered by the decrease of muscular mass brought on by the shift in sport. He also had trouble reading and analyzing pitches, which frequently resulted in strikeouts. Jordan persisted though, and he eventually established himself as a team regular. He played in 127 games in his rookie campaign and hit three home runs.
The Media Circus
Jordan’s choice to switch to baseball attracted a lot of media attention. The former basketball star found it difficult to concentrate on his game as journalists, fans, and sports commentators closely tracked his every move. The continual pressure frequently made him feel as though everything he did was being watched closely.
Jordan was not the only one affected by this media frenzy, his colleagues also felt overshadowed by his star power. Irrelevant to how he was performing, his teammates felt as though MJ was taking the spotlight away from them despite their best attempts.
To maintain his focus on the game, the three-time NBA champion had to push himself harder than ever before. He knew that the transition to baseball wouldn’t be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, but he did not anticipate the kind of media attention that would be coming his way. On numerous occasions, he found himself struggling to concentrate and thus unable to find his form, and the intense media scrutiny made every game feel like a burden.
The Return to Basketball
Jordan opted to play basketball again in 1995 after a less-than-stellar campaign, much to the relief of his supporters and teammates. However, his time playing baseball had a lasting effect on him because he gained a newfound respect for the game and its players. He also grew more committed to playing basketball successfully.
Upon his return, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to an unprecedented second threepeat. Both he and his teammates will go down in history as perhaps the greatest NBA team to have ever donned a uniform, and to this day, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and co. are fondly remembered. The Netflix docuseries ‘The Last Dance’ is an incredible watch for those interested in how Jordan’s basketball career wound down.
The Legacy of Jordan’s Baseball Career
Despite being brief and not particularly successful, Jordan’s baseball career is still a fascinating aspect of his life that helped shape his legacy. Many individuals, both on and off the court, admire his tenacity, work ethic, and willingness to take chances. His time playing baseball also brought to light the difficulties sportsmen confront while switching sports and the value of appreciating athletes and the sports they play.