The stories that stick with us: Starting my White Sox career when Michael Jordan was starting his

  • It was Michael Jordan's celebrity that dominated spring training in 1994, not so much his play.

    It was Michael Jordan's celebrity that dominated spring training in 1994, not so much his play. Associated Press, 1994

  • Scot Gregor

    Scot Gregor

 
 
Updated 10/8/2021 10:55 AM

No matter what, I will always remember my first season covering the White Sox for the Daily Herald.

Like Michael Jordan, I was a rookie in 1994.

 

That alone makes it a year that would be impossible to forget -- most notably the six weeks of spring training. Throughout the years, there has been a sizable contingent of news media representatives at the beginning of training camp. As the days and weeks pass by, that number dwindles to just a few beat writers.

Thanks to Jordan, the spring of '94 was much different and something I can't imagine ever being duplicated.

Arriving in Sarasota, Florida, in mid-February and trying to figure out what was what on a very good Sox team, I was overwhelmed to see a couple hundred credentialed reporters staked out at Ed Smith Stadium.

There were newspaper and magazine writers, TV and radio reporters, journalists representing countless outlets from all over the world.

All were there to see Jordan, who decided to give baseball a try after leading the Bulls to three NBA championships.

It was a daily mob scene, and Jordan was both accessible and accommodating while being blitzed with the same questions day after day before being assigned to the White Sox's Class AA Birmingham farm team.

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Jordan was also humble as he navigated a new sport -- to a point.

We were casually chatting one day late in spring training when a clubhouse worker came over with a dozen baseballs.

Jordan was an autograph machine in the spring of 1994, and he grabbed the box and pulled out a pen before a Grapefruit League game versus the Pirates.

"Who are these for?" Jordan asked.

"Andy Van Slyke," the clubbie said, referring to Pittsburgh's star center fielder.

Jordan's profane response is not fit for a family newspaper, and Van Slyke never got his signed souvenirs.

"Baseball has as good a chance of having a salary cap as Michael Jordan has of wearing a White Sox cap," Van Slyke said right before spring training started. "Neither is going to happen."

Keeping an eye on the Sox and Jordan -- who played one minor league season with Birmingham before going back the Bulls and winning three more titles -- was a challenging way to break into covering baseball.

• Sports columnist Scot Gregor has worked for the Daily Herald since 1985.

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