HAWL IN: Michael Jordan, a White Sox playoff game, and a retirement stunner
CHICAGO – It was so unexpected, so stunning, that it’s turned into a “where were you” moment for many sports fans.
As he was on the sidelines, smiling and talking with teammates, news broke during the Colts-Bears preseason that a former No. 1 overall draft pick was about to call it quits.
Adam Schefter’s tweet turned a rather calm preseason game night into a frenzy. Word spread up and down the sidelines of both teams, a buzz went through Lucas Oil Stadium, with shocked fans reacting with sadness and even anger.
Gone was a franchise quarterback whom some thought was on a Hall of Fame path through his first three seasons. But a multitude of injuries slowed Luck and drained him of his desire for the game, leading to the decision to hang it up after seven seasons (missed 2017 with injury).
Chicago fans looked in on the situation from the outside, since their team wasn’t affected by Luck’s decision. But many in the city remembered their moment just like this one that happened 26 years earlier.
This one, however, was considerably bigger and even more stunning to the Windy City and sporting world.
October 5, 1993 was all about the White Sox in Chicago – and deservedly so.
For the first time since 1983, the team won the American League Western Division title with a 94-68 record. The group was led by AL MVP Frank Thomas, who was on his way to becoming a superstar, and Cy Young winner Jack McDowell who anchored a young pitching staff. He was to start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the defending champion Toronto Blue Jays in what was a historic moment for the White Sox.
Since the infamous “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, the team had played in the postseason twice before in 1959 World Series (vs Dodgers) and the 1983 ALCS (vs Orioles). It was just the sixth postseason game played at the old or new Comiskey Park in 74 years.
To mark the occasion, the White Sox had Chicago’s most popular athlete on hand for the festivities.
Dressed in denim, Michael Jordan threw out the ceremonial first pitch to White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice. It was low and outside, but it didn’t matter, there were smiles all around.
Why wouldn’t there be? The White Sox were in the playoffs and Jordan was preparing to go for a “Four-Peat” after the Bulls won their third title in a row the previous June in an entertaining series against the Suns.
Then all hell broke loose.
Midway through the game, NBC Dateline had a report on their show which stated that Jordan, upset over the death of his father that August, would retire from basketball. In the pre-social media world, the news traveled a little slower at the ballpark, but those around the country that were tuned in started learning of the very surprising news.
Retirement seemed far from anyone’s mind considering Jordan’s success both individually and the Bulls as a team. It also came after an NBA Finals against the Suns where he averaged an incredible 41 points a game, so it seemed as if the best days were ahead.
For that moment, they weren’t, and suddenly the night that belonged to the White Sox now was all about Jordan. Eventually, the CBS game broadcast revealed the news, and in the seventh inning, cameras captured Jordan leaving his suite at the game to return home.
Security ushed Jordan out of the suite area at the park, and soon after, a news conference was scheduled for the next morning.
The White Sox would lose that game 7-3 to the veteran Blue Jays, who were aided by Paul Molitor’s 4-for-5 performance at the plate with a home run with three RBI. But the rest of the world seemed to forget that, especially in Chicago, where arguably the greatest sports icon in the city’s history had called it quits.
But it was how it happened – just weeks before the season, coming off a championship season and arguably his best playoff series – that made it so hard for many to understand. Fans were filled with shock and sadness at what appeared to be the end of an incredible era of Chicago Bulls basketball.
Though, as we all know now, Jordan returned a year-and-a-half later and led the Bulls to another three-peat before a second retirement, that was later followed by another comeback.
Yet what happened on October 5, 1993 was exactly like what happened with Luck on Saturday. The person was in the venue, appearing ready for another season, and when news broke that he wouldn’t, it traveled quickly, shocked easily, changing the course of the player along with the team as a city watched it unfold.
So don’t worry, Colts fans, Chicago knows what you’re going through. We’ve been there, in almost frighteningly similar circumstances.