CHICAGO — Just four months after shocking the world by walking away from basketball, sports legend Michael Jordan announced he was about to hit the diamond back in the Winter of 1994.
“His Airness” was leaving the court at the height of his career and took on baseball as his next adventure.
On this day in 1994, Michael Jordan signed a contract with the @whitesox.
"I’ve never been afraid to fail. That’s something you have to deal with in reality. I think I’m strong enough as a person to accept failing, but I can’t accept not trying." pic.twitter.com/XQUALoO4QY
— Sports Photos (@sportsphotos) February 7, 2019
Twenty-five years ago on Thursday, Jordan made the decision to sign a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox. He explained during a news conference that day that he worked with White Sox players for the previous two months in the batting cages at Comiskey Park in order to make this new venture a reality.
Along with speaking with the media on the contract, he also held a workout out that day at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“My motto has been, ‘It’s no gimmick,'” he said to the media that day.
During the news conference, Jordan remarked that it was his late father James’ dream to see him play baseball. James was found dead in McColl, S.C. on Aug. 3, 1993.
“I chose to try to play baseball just to see if I could,” Jordan said 25 years ago. “I’m not doing it as a distraction and I’m not doing it as a media hog or looking for the media exposure from it. It’s one of the wishes my father had and I had as a kid.”
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) February 7, 2019
That would be Jordan’s on Spring and Summer in baseball, one that featured some growing pains along with some memorable moments.
His April 7 appearance in an exhibition game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field is the most memorable, as Jordan started in right field and hit sixth. He had a single and a double, much to the delight of the crowd, in a game that finished in a 4-4 tie.
The rest of the year was spent in Double-A Birmingham under future Red Sox manager Terry Francona. In 127 games, Jordan batted .202 with 17 doubles, a triple, one homer, and 114 strikeouts and a .289 on-base percentage.
As Major League Baseball sat in a strike in early 1995, Jordan contemplated and then eventually returned to the NBA, where he would go onto win three more championships with the Bulls.
A generation later, his playing baseball is a footnote in a remarkable athletic career, one that was born 25 years ago.