The inside story on the scoop I had on MJ playing baseball ... or did I?
“The Last Dance” sheds light on what was the biggest story in sports after Michael Jordan retired from baseball in 1993. Here are some more details.
The Last Chance . . .
Let’s have some fun.
Let’s play a game of who had the scoop first?
Had Sneed flown to the rim and slam dunked it? Or not?
Who actually was the first journalist to scoop that Michael Jordan, who had left basketball after winning a third NBA championship, was practicing baseball in hopes of playing for the White Sox?
For decades it’s been my private chest beater, a scoop I’ve considered one of my best in my 50-plus year Chicago newspaper career. (Along with former U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as the nation’s first female veep candidate.)
How many times have I told friends about the phone call in late 1993 from a highly trusted MJ source stating:
“Sneed, do I have one for you. The scoop of the century. Sit down. Take this down. Michael Jordan has a new career. He is going to play baseball.”
Knock me over with a fly swatter! The source was impeccable.
The trouble was getting a second source.
Finally, on December 22, 1993, three days before Christmas and more than six weeks before a press conference verifying Jordan’s baseball switch and Sox itch, Sneed wrote:
“Tipsville: Michael Jordan a starting right fielder for the White Sox in 1994?
“Sneed hears Jordan has been practicing for the last six weeks in the batting cages and using pitching machines under the stands at Comiskey Park. And that Bill Melton, a community relations representative for the team and a former Sox third baseman, reportedly has been instructing him!”
“Sneed’s snoops claim Jordan is gonna have a verrrry hard time hitting major league pitching . . . but he sure would be one heck of a draw for the Sox! He’d sell the stadium out! Stay tuned.”
Ka-pow? Nope. Ka-bam! Silence. No follow-up. No denial. No response, period.
What? Had the press gone on vacation?
This columnist headed on a winter break vacation with my son, Patrick, which resulted in a broken ankle. Mine. I forgot MJ.
Last week, I was late joining America tuning into the hit ESPN series “The Last Dance,” a superb look back on Jordan’s superstar era.
Yet, as an old time scoop journalist, the MJ baseball segment intrigued me.
Hmmmm? Was my Jordan Sox baseball scoop a scoop after all? Yikes.
So I decided to backtrack.
Thus . . .
- On December 16, 1993, veteran radio sports reporter Cheryl Raye tipped Jordan’s baseball workout at Comiskey Park via WMVP-AM 1000 radio, now ESPN.
Although there is no existing tape of her commentary, no one doubts her accuracy. Raye tells Sneed she “also indicated Jordan may continue spring training with the White Sox ... but I didn’t know specifics whether it would be major or minor league.”
In a 2013 WBEZ radio interview, Raye said she broke the story on air with former Sun-Times columnist/AM 1000 radio commentator Jay Mariotti, who stated: “Oh that’s not true. That’s not happening.”
- On December 22, Sneed’s tip.
- On January 6, 1994, amid a deluge of unconfirmed rumors, my old Chicago Tribune chum Bob Verdi wrote: “Michael Jordan is serious about playing baseball. Feel free to assume that the disclaimers being issued from Comiskey Park are camouflage.”
- And the late-great sports columnist Gene Seymour reported in an early October 1993 essay topping the Copley Sports fronts in tandem with Jordan’s NBA retirement:
“Despite (the) announcement, Jordan might not be completely gone from the Chicago sports landscape as an active player,” wrote Seymour. “More than one confidant hinted Jordan may pursue a career in professional baseball. (Agent David) Falk insisted if Jordan were to do so, the White Sox would be his organization of first choice.”
There ya go. Everyone got a piece of the action.
But like mushrooms after rain, there are a lot of sprouts to be picked — but not between Christmas and the New Year, when it’s usually snowing.
Pandemic praise . . .
The late, great Monsignor Ignatius “Father Mac” McDermott would be proud. His famous drug and alcohol rehab organization, the Haymarket Center, kept its doors open to all — including the homeless and uninsured — needing drug and alcohol treatment during this COVID-19 pandemic. CEO Dr. Dan Lustig successfully steered 58 patients in treatment through their internal quarantine procedures.
Sneedlings . . .
One country to another: Kudos to the iconic Chicago Skyway, which is owned by three large Canadian pension plans, for supporting local Southeast Side food banks, donating meals for Advocate Trinity Hospital ICU staff, and donating snack bags for truckers during this COVID-19 pandemic. . . . Saturday’s birthdays: Megan Fox, 34; Janet Jackson, 54; and Pierce Brosnan, 67. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Tony Parker, 38; Derek Hough, 35; and Jordan Knight, 50.