Spring of 1994: Jordan reports for baseball
At the age of 31, and fresh off three NBA titles, Jordan retired from the NBA to pursue a baseball career with the Chicago White Sox. Speculation and rumors of why he retired, included burnout after winning three consecutive titles, depression over his father's murder, the pursuit of a lifelong dream to play baseball, and a year long gambling suspension by NBA commissioner David Stern.
I was working for CLTV, Chicago's 24-hour TV news channel and hosting a nightly hour long show called SportsPage. On February 1, 1994, I flew to Sarasota with a videographer to cover Jordan for spring training. It was a circus. I mean was nuts. It was the wildest story I have ever covered. We used a Conus satellite truck to send all of our video and packages back to Chicago. As part of the deal, I had to do live shots for various stations with a Conus affiliation. I wound up doing live shots for 15 different stations that day. I stood in front of a TV camera near the field and would talk to one station after another, doing an intro to my TV package and then talking with the anchors at that station.
The city of Sarasota was going nuts with Jordan in town. We camped out in front of the Sox complex the first morning and waited for Jordan's arrival. I remember interviewing people that had driven all night to be there. One day that week I was standing near the dugout before batting practice. Dick Vitale came walking onto the field. He saw my microphone and said, "Hey, CLTV, I love CLTV". He had no idea who we were. He asked if he could use my microphone. He started walking around the field, with my videographer, interviewing various players. He ended his report by looking into the camera and saying, "This is Dickie V, reporting from Sarasota for CLTV". We used it on my show that night. It was gold!
One day I was wondering around the back of the building when Jordan came out a side door. It was me, him and my videographer. Startled, I asked if he had a second to talk. He said, "if you walk with me." My videographer started rolling. I walked with Jordan for about 50 yards to the stadium, interviewing him as I faced him, but walked backwards.
His baseball career:
Jordan played the 1994 season at Double-A Birmingham. He hit .201 in 127 games, with 51 RBI and 30 SB. He bought a luxury bus for his team to travel in from city to city. It is still staggering to think he returned to the NBA after 18 months away. He joined the Bulls for the final 18 regular season games of the 1994-95 season, losing to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The following season started a run of three more consecutive titles for the Bulls. So, MJ won three consecutive titles, retired, played minor league baseball for a season and then came back and won three more NBA titles in a row.