In February 1994, four months after the first of his three retirements from the NBA, Michael Jordan signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. Jordan had last played baseball as a high school senior in 1981. His father, James, who was murdered the previous summer, had always wanted Jordan to be a baseball player. "You tell me I can't do something," Jordan said, "and I'm going to do it."
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The 31-year-old Jordan spent the 1994 season playing for the Double A Birmingham Barons under manager Terry Francona. With a 13-year hole in his baseball résumé, Jordan put in his time in the batting cage. "Nobody has outworked him," Francona said. "He has the same goal as the other 23 players here. He just wants to get to the big leagues."
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In taking stock of Jordan's performance early in spring training, Sports Illustrated's Steve Wulf wrote, "Michael Jordan has no more business patrolling right field in Comiskey Park than Minnie Minoso has bringing the ball upcourt for the Chicago Bulls."
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During spring training, Jordan referred to an umpire as "the ref." Once the games counted, the 6-foot-6 Jordan struck out 114 times in 436 at-bats for Birmingham.
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Jordan, pictured here during a base-running drill, was one of only six Double A players to finish with 30 stolen bases and 50 RBIs. But he hit only .202 with three home runs in 127 games.
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Jordan committed 11 errors and had six outfield assists for the Barons, who used him primarily in right field.
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The Barons traveled throughout the Southern League in style thanks to Jordan, who procured a $337,500 luxury bus complete with reclining seats, televisions and a wet bar.
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Jordan, pictured here stretching with Mike Cameron, was known in the clubhouse as being a tough customer in Ping-Pong and Yahtzee. ''He's a good guy and I think that he's gone out of his way to try and fit in,'' Barons shortstop Glenn DiSarcina told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ''But he's still Michael Jordan. There are still guys in the clubhouse who don't know how to approach him.''
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In August 1994, near the end of the baseball season, Jordan defended his two-sport stab: "What I've done is give inspiration to people. Believe in what you believe in and make an attempt at it; don't give up before you even try. ... For all the criticism I've received for doing what I'm doing, it's only an opportunity that I've taken advantage of. If you're given an opportunity to take advantage of something you truly love and dream about, do it."
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After his season with the Barons, Jordan reported to the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. He hit .252 and called himself the team's "worst player." In March 1995, in the midst of baseball's eight-month strike, Jordan returned to the NBA via a two-word press release: "I'm back."
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