20 years later, Ventura remembers Michael Jordan's White Sox debut

20 years later, Ventura remembers Michael Jordan's White Sox debut
March 4, 2014, 7:15 pm
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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Twenty years ago, the biggest name in basketball made his debut in baseball.

Michael Jordan went 0-1 in a spring training game with the White Sox on March 4, 1994, beginning his one-year foray into baseball. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was part of that first spring training with Jordan, and remembered how the presence of No. 23 (who wore No. 45, since Ventura wore No. 23) livened up camp.

"It was a fun spring training," Ventura said. "Any time a guy like him that was as good as he was at a sport and all of a sudden comes over to ours, it was fun for us."

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Jordan went on to play one season with the Birmingham Barons, the White Sox Double-A affiliate. In 497 plate appearances spanning 127 games, Jordan hit .202 with a .289 on-base percentage and had three home runs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 48 attempts.

But this was someone who hadn't played organized baseball since high school. And among the future major leaguers pitching in the Southern League at the time were Brad Radke, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Schmidt, Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza and Derek Lowe.

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So in a sense, hitting barely above the Mendoza line was actually a pretty good accomplishment for Jordan. But that just speaks to his eliter-than-elite athleticism.

"To come out of nowhere and pick it up again -- but he was a good enough athlete," Ventura said. "Outfield-wise, defensively, he could still run it down and do it. Hitting was going to take a while."