“He and [White Sox general manager] Ron Schueler came to me,” Reinsdorf says of that day in the summer of 1993. “It may have been the day Michael’s father was killed, and no one yet knew.
“Michael had taken batting practice a few years before in old Comiskey Park, so he and Schueler approached me with this idea that Michael wanted to go to our Class A team in Hickory and play that summer.
“I said, ‘It’s ridiculous — but if you want to do it, go and do it.’ But it didn’t happen because his father was killed.”
James Jordan’s murder changed Michael Jordan’s life dramatically. In fall 1993, his agent, David Falk, approached Reinsdorf at Jordan’s annual charity dinner. “He said, ‘We have to talk. Michael wants to retire,’ ” Reinsdorf says. “I said, ‘You have to be kidding.’ ”
The following week, the three met at Falk’s home in Maryland on a Sunday.
“Michael laid it out, and I didn’t try to talk him out of it because I was convinced he was making the right decision because he was burned out, there was the death of his father, the burden of the three-peat and trying to win another championship,” Reinsdorf says. “What I did say was, ‘You can’t announce this until you talk to [Bulls coach] Phil [Jackson]. He said, ‘I don’t want to talk to Phil because he’s going to try to talk me out of it.’ I said, ‘You still have to talk to him.’ ”
That Monday, Jordan met with Jackson. The next day, he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch of the Sox home playoff game against Toronto. That night, Jordan’s secret about retiring got out.
“I think he said something to Gene Lamont,” the manager of the White Sox, Reinsdorf says.
The next day, a packed national media throng listened as Jordan announced his retirement at the Bulls’ training facility in Deerfield.
But the move also opened the door for Jordan to carry through on his baseball ambitions. He joined the Class AA Birmingham Barons for the start of the 1994 season.
He hit .202, with three home runs, 51 RBI, 30 stolen bases and 11 errors. But that also was the season of the strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series and threatened the 1995 season. An injunction against the owners issued April 25 that year by then U.S. District Judge and now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor put baseball back on the field.
But Jordan was forced to make a decision before then.
“He came back to basketball because of the strike,” says Reinsdorf, who had honored Jordan’s Bulls contract through his baseball season. “He was making progress, but when the strike came, I told him, ‘You can’t be a replacement player. You’ll have to go back with the minor league guys.’ He didn’t want to do that.”
Jordan issued his famous two-word “I’m back” announcement March 18, 1995, returning to the Bulls and three more championships.