On February 7, 1994, the Chicago White Sox and Michael Jordan shocked the world as it was announced that the then-three-time NBA champion, who’d retired from the Chicago Bulls just four months earlier, would be pursuing a baseball career and had officially inked a minor-league deal with the franchise.
While not for a lack of trying as he certainly put in the work, Jordan never made it to the big leagues and returned to the NBA in March 1995, going on to win three more titles with the Bulls. But everyone knows all of that, right?
But did you know that there actually was a man named Michael Jordan who played Major League Baseball? And that he was born almost exactly 100 years to the day before the modern-day MJ? And that was the day Jordan signed with the White Sox?
Michael Jordan officially signed with the White Sox on February 7, 1994
On October 6, 1993, after nine seasons and three consecutive championships with the Bulls, Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time.
Just a few months earlier, his father, James Jordan, had been brutally murdered and during the press conference in which he announced his retirement, MJ spoke on how he was content with the fact that his father had watched his final NBA game.
But before Jordan became the biggest star the game of basketball had ever seen, his father had different athletic dreams for his son as James had dreamed of Michael becoming a professional baseball player. So MJ actually tried to make that happen. He began working out and just a short time later, the Chicago White Sox, who were (and still are) owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the Bulls, officially signed Jordan to a minor-league contract on February 7, 1994.
MJ played one season in the minors
Despite not having played organized baseball for about 15 years, Michael Jordan was assigned to the Double-A affiliate for the White Sox, the Birmingham Barons, as the franchise felt Single-A, which is where he truly should have started, didn’t have facilities big enough to maintain the media circus that naturally followed this story.
While Jordan got off to a nice start in Birmingham, beginning his professional baseball career with a 13-game hitting streak, hitting .327 during that opening stretch. However, pitchers finally figured out that he had issues with breaking pitches and MJ didn’t see a ton of fastballs the rest of the season. In 127 games for the Barons in 1994, Jordan hit .202 with three home runs and 51 runs batted in. He walked 51 times but struck out 114 times in 497 plate appearances.
Following his run in Birmingham, Jordan went to the Arizona Fall League and suited up for the Scottsdale Scorpions, hitting .252 in 123 at-bats over 35 games. It was rumored that Jordan may have been promoted to Triple-A the following season but on March 2, 1995, MJ walked out of White Sox training camp as he had no desire to be involved in the labor dispute between the owners and players.
He’d previously stated that he would not have made his MLB dreams come true had he been asked to be a replacement player if a deal wasn’t reached before the start of the ’95 season, an option that was on the table.
Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls a short time later.
Michael Jordan signed his deal with the White Sox on the birthday of the only Michael Jordan to ever play Major League Baseball
So here’s the fun part you’ve been waiting for.
As mentioned, Michael Jordan officially signed his deal with the White Sox on February 7, 1994, which would have been the 131st birthday of the only man named Michael Jordan to play Major League Baseball, who was born on February 7, 1863, 100 years and 10 days before modern-day MJ entered the world on February 17, 1963.
What makes the story even better is that the Jordan from way back in the day went by Mike, which later MJ did up until he famously hit that game-winning shot for North Carolina in the 1982 NCAA title game. But I digress.
As for the Mike Jordan that actually did make the big leagues, he played one season for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1890, the final season the franchise would use that name before becoming the Pirates. In 37 games for Pittsburgh that season, Jordan, who also played the outfield, made 143 plate appearances and hit .096 with 15 walks and 19 strikeouts. He had an on-base percentage of .210, a slugging percentage of just .104, and hit zero home runs with six runs batted in.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference