Michael Jordan’s brief bid to launch a professional baseball career after his sudden retirement from the NBA in 1993 is expected to be a major storyline in an upcoming episode of ESPN’s documentary series “The Last Dance.”
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Jordan stunned the sports world in Oct. 1993 when he announced his retirement after leading the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA titles. Just four months later, Jordan delivered another shock by signing a contract with the Chicago White Sox, whose owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, also owned the Bulls.
The NBA superstar’s decision to switch sports was motivated in part by the death of his father, James Jordan, an avid baseball fan who was found murdered at a rest stop in North Carolina in Aug. 1993. Jordan’s father had always hoped his son would become a pro baseball player.
After a spring training stint with the White Sox, Jordan was assigned to the White Sox’s Double-A affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, with no guarantee that he would ever reach the majors. While the financial terms of his deal were not publicly known, the Bulls were still paying Jordan a salary of $4 million for the season.
Jordan’s minor league career generated plenty of fanfare, but his on-field performance was largely forgettable. In 127 games with the Barons, he hit just .202 at the plate with three home runs and 51 RBIs. He committed 11 fielding errors while playing in the outfield.
At the time, the Barons were managed by Terry Francona, who later managed the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title.
Jordan’s experiment with a baseball career proved to be short-lived. When MLB dealt with a player strike in 1995, Jordan opted for an NBA comeback with his old team, the Bulls. With Jordan back on the roster, the Bulls embarked on a second “three-peat” of NBA championships, culminating in the 1997-98 season.
Episodes seven and eight of “The Last Dance” will air on Sunday night on ESPN.