Stick Jordan? This White Sox Thing Just May Make Sense after All

Article excerpt

Michael Jordan is expected to receive his official invitation to spring training from the Chicago White Sox by the end of this week or early next week.

That's not news to his former Bulls teammates, who heard about Jordan's baseball plans several months ago. But they heard it a little differently than most. The talk among the team was that Jordan had told some he'd already signed a contract.

Not only for spring training. For this season.

And as Jordan's baseball situation comes out bit by bit, from secret batting-practice sessions to veiled comments from management and experts in the form of well-placed trial balloons to his facing live pitching, it has become increasingly clear to those close to Jordan and Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Bulls and White Sox, that Jordan will be playing in the major leagues this season.

Oh, sure, the whole episode could come crashing to an end in a couple of weeks when Jordan heads for spring training, but the signs are there to many close to the Sox and Bulls that a deal has been done - although Reinsdorf denies it - because it benefits everyone.

Jordan becomes the modern-day Jim Thorpe by going from star basketball player to major-leaguer - hey, Thorpe couldn't hit the curve either as his .143 rookie average suggests - and Reinsdorf, a leader in the marketing and sales boom in pro sports, pulls off the marketing coup of the century.

You scoff. You say Jordan can't hit major-league pitching at 31 when he barely could hit when he was 15. But the feat is just coming to bat in the majors, making some contact, getting an occasional hit. Worse athletes than Jordan have done it - and do every day in the majors.

Spring-training failures? Hey, who hits a curve in spring training anyway?

The notion is Jordan wouldn't try anything if he's going to be embarrassed. Don't bet on it. Because Jordan will. In fact, don't bet against Jordan except on the golf course.

In 1990, tired of the dunk contest, Jordan decided to try the 3-point shooting contest during All-Star weekend. It was a suicidal entry. Craig Hodges, who would go on to win three times, wasn't even the favorite. Three-time winner Larry Bird, one of the great-long distance shooters ever, was there, as was Mark Price. Jordan toted in a 24 percent career 3-point shooting percentage. He'd attempted only 52 3-pointers in five years.

But he took the challenge and came away with the lowest score in the history of the contest.

Embarrassed? "No, I wasn't," Jordan said immediately after the contest.

And every summer, even after shooting 80s and 90s, Jordan is out there in those celebrity golf pro-ams way behind the likes of Bill Laimbeer.

Look at it this way, as Reinsdorf apparently does: Bo Jackson couldn't run or play the field. …