Tag Archives: 1994

How The 1994 MLB Strike Ended Michael Jordan’s Baseball Career

In November of 1993 just shortly after the murder of his father, Michael Jordan retired from basketball.  Jordan had revolutionized basketball with his high skill set and magnetic charisma. He had already cemented his position in the Hall Of Fame and was arguably the most popular athlete in the history of America. After nine seasons in the NBA and three straight NBA titles it was all over.

As 1994 began Michael Jordan soon announced that he would try his hand at professional baseball.  Mostly because it was the one sport his father wanted to see him succeed at when he was growing up.  It would be a tribute to his father he said. The owner of the Chicago Bulls was Jerry Reinsdorf and he also happened to own the Chicago White Sox.  Reinsdorf being the smart and adventurous business man he was knew that Michael Jordan would be a huge money draw in baseball.  He agreed to sign Jordan to a minor league contract and pay him the same amount that he was contracted to receive with his Bulls contract.  It was a done deal and the media and fans clamored to see Jordan make his debut in baseball.

Michael Jordan the "baseball player" (Getty Images)

Michael Jordan the “baseball player” (Getty Images)

As spring training began for the White Sox in Sarasota, Florida the Michael Jordan circus began.  The media was always around and were focused solely on Jordan.  They followed his batting practices, fielding practices and watched his every move.  The fans also swarmed him every chance they could get, hoping they could snag an autograph of one of the greatest basketball players ever.  The attendance for White Sox games that spring shot through the roof and many fans were unable to even get a ticket to the spring games.  Michael Jordan played his first official spring training game on March 3, 1994 as an outfielder.  He would play 17 games that spring and on March 31, 1994 was optioned to the White Sox minor league affiliate the Birmingham Barons.

The city of Birmingham was set on fire by the Michael Jordan experience.  They sold out more games than they had ever before and had major media at almost every game.  It was a treat for the fans of the Barons to get to see such a great athlete trying to make it in a sport he had not played since high school.  Jordan had an average season with many ups and downs.  He batted .202, hit 3 home runs and batted in 51 runs.  Jordan played 127 games in that season and struck out 114 times.  He definitely had a rough time but did make improvements by the end of the season.

Jordan being Jordan wanted to work more on his baseball skills and decided to play in the Arizona Fall League following his first minor league season.  In that short season for the Scottsdale Scorpions Jordan batted a .252.  While not great by professional baseball standards he did improve even more in the fall league and was poised to continue his development in 1995.

Unfortunately Major League Baseball was still dealing with the 1994 players strike when the 1995 Spring Training season was to begin.  As the battle between the owners and the players union intensified the lines were being drawn.  The players were deciding whether to sit out until a deal could be arranged or to play anyways.  Jordan reported to camp in Florida initially in February of 1995. He would end up deciding in March not to be involved in the drama and chose to sit out while the strike continued.

It was during this time in mid march of 1995 Jordan attended a Chicago Bulls game.  just two weeks later he was on the court playing basketball again.  Many fans where excited to have his talents back in basketball and did not care that he quite his baseball career.  Jordan would go onto win three more NBA Titles and retired from basketball for good after the 2002-03 season.

Because his basketball career picked up right where it left off in 1993 not many questioned the decision.  It makes one wonder almost two decade’s later what would have been if not for the baseball players strike of 1994.  Would Michael Jordan continued until he was either cut or made it to the Major Leagues?  That is hard to say but it was clear he was on the right track to eventually play at the Major League level.  He was only 32 when he went back to basketball and had time to develop into an even better baseball player.

We will never know where baseball could have taken Michael Jordan.  We wont ever know where Jordan could have taken baseball had he stayed.  The popularity of baseball would have likely increased after the horrible strike and maybe Jordan could have been the face of baseball.  All we can do now is imagine what could have been but it is clear to see that the baseball strike deterred Jordan from continuing his baseball dream.

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Otto Graham: The Greatest Quarterback Ever

Many modern football fans have never even heard the name Otto Graham.  Decades before Bernie Kosar was taking the Browns through many playoff runs.  Otto Graham was the best quarterback not only in Cleveland but in the NFL.  Years before Jim Brown dominated teams, Otto Graham was dominating the league.  Graham will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.  He was the 1st and possibly the biggest Cleveland sports star ever.

Otto Graham goes for a pass in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. (Getty Images)

Otto Graham goes for a pass in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. (Getty Images)

Otto Graham started his professional career in Cleveland during the 1946 season.  At the time the Browns played in the All American Football Conference (AAFC).  In that season Graham lead the Browns to their 1st Championship and the team finished with a 12-2 record.  The winning did not stop there.  The Browns went on to win the 1947, 1948 and 1949 AAFC Championship prior to entering the NFL in 1950.  During his first 4 seasons he played in 54 games and had 86 TD’s and 10,085 yards passing in total.  Many people considered the AAFC to be the minor leagues so to speak.  The Browns were not expected to be as dominant in the NFL.

The critics were completely wrong with their assumption.  Graham had almost the same numbers in the NFL as he did in the AAFC.  Graham would play in 72 games in the NFL and have 88 TD’s and 13,499 yards passing.  Graham and the Browns made the Championship game from 1950 to 1955.  In total Graham led the Browns to 10 straight championship games with them winning 7 of them.  The only years during this period where they did not win a championship was 1951, 1952 and 1953.  Their playoff record was 9-3 during those 10 seasons.

Otto Graham retired after the 1955 season.  He retired with 174 TD’s and 23,584 yards passing.  In his career Graham was a 5 time Pro Bowler and was a 7 time First Team All Pro.  He was one of the first inductees into the Hall Of Fame in 1965.

Otto Graham's Plaque (Getty Images)

Otto Graham’s Plaque (Getty Images)

Otto Graham was able to accomplish something that will never happen again by leading his team to 10 straight championship games.  The only other player to come close was Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills made it to the Super Bowl from 1990-1994 but never won any of those games.

There are many names that are discussed when talking about who was the greatest quarterback ever.  Names like Dan Marino, John Elway, Johnny Unitas and Tom Brady but none of those players achieved the success that Graham was able to do.  The only argument that any one might have against Graham would be that the playoffs were shorter with less games when he played.  The fact of the matter is he still won those titles and in both leagues.  The only reason that most people do not consider him the best is because they don’t know anything about him or what he did during his career.

As long as the stats and film are around no one can deny his greatness.  For such a short career by today’s standards he really made an impact.  Otto Graham passed away in 2003.  He left a legacy that will never be forgotten, he will live forever in the Hall Of Fame.

Two Wild Card Teams, Too Many!

This past off season Major League baseball did something they had not done since 1994. It changed it’s playoff structure by adding a new element.

Prior to 1995 there were just four teams involved in the post season. There was an Eastern and Western Champion in Both leagues who would play each other for the League Championship. Those two winners would go into the World Series and face off against the opposing leagues Champion. This had been the case since 1969.

The new system was enacted in 1994 but due to the strike shortened season it debuted in 1995.  The system worked with each league having three divisions.  Each division winner would go to the playoffs and the team with the best record that did not win a division would also go to the post season.  There have been five wild card teams that have won a World Series since MLB instituted the wild card.

In November the commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig announced that their would be a second wild card team for each league.  The two wild card teams would play each other in a one game playoff.  The winner will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs and face one of the divisional champions.  All that was added was basically one more game to each leagues playoff.  We will see the first wild card playoff game in less than two weeks from now.

The new system obviously adds something to the final month of the season.  More teams will be in the hunt for the post season with the additional wild card.  Those teams games will also be more exciting down the stretch when MLB can be boring at times.  It will also create a new buzz in the playoffs.  However there is a draw back.

The two wild card teams might actually be pretty far apart records wise.  The second wild card team will be given an opportunity for the playoffs they may not deserve. As of right now you have two teams at the top of the National League wild card race.  The Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals.  The braves lead the Cardinals by 6 games.  If the playoffs were to start today the Cardinals would get a one game playoff opportunity with the Braves they should not have.

This new system seems nice right now but over time it will dilute the MLB post season.  One wild card team per league is just enough.  If you have too many non playoff worthy teams getting a shot in the playoffs it will spell disaster for MLB.  This is just another scheme by Selig to make more money off of the last month of the season and add more money to the post season television deals.  MLB should go back to the four team per league system before the post season become watered down.  As the old adage goes if it is not broke don’t fix it.

Top 3 Moments in June “The Greatest Month In Sports”

It’s July and that means one thing the greatest month in sports is over, for this year at least. June has held a big place in sports for many years now.  I personally consider it to be the most memorable month in sports every year.  No one can forget the O.J. Simpson bronco chase in June of 1994. Other unforgettable images pop up as well.  Michael Jordan winning his championships with the Chicago Bulls and sealing his place on sports history.  The Stanley Cup classics with greats like Wayne Gretzky capturing the cup numerous times for the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. Numerous World Cup soccer competitions had their start in June and also brought many memorable moments with them.  Major League Baseball has some of its most exciting games matching up teams from the N.L. and A.L. in inter league play.  There have been so many great things that occurred during this month.  So I decided to give you my top 3 moments for this past month.  Let’s take a look…

#1- LEBRON JAMES WINS HIS FIRST NBA TITLE (June 21st, 2012)

Lebron James celebrates with the Miami Heat.
(Getty Images)

After 9 seasons in the NBA Lebron James showed the world that he was in fact a champion.  The Miami Heat defated the Oklahoma City Thunder and their young rising superstar Kevin Durant in 5 games to win the NBA Title.  This Miami Heat team was heavely favored going into the season to take the title.  They had some rough moments in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics but they came out on top and advanced to their second NBA Finals in a row.  Lebron showed a level of play and maturity like we have never seen from him before.  Lebron can have a nice relating summer and pick up the pursuit of more NBA Titles in the fall.

#2- THE LOS ANGELES KINGS TAKE THE STANLEY CUP (June 11th, 2012)

The Kings shocked the world this year in the NHL Playoffs.
(Getty Images)

The surprising L.A. Kings won the Lord Stanley’s Cup in 6 games over the New Jersey Devils.  This Stanley Cup victory will never be forgotten by the hockey world or the sports world for that matter.  The city of L.A. needed this victory at a time when the Lakers and Clippers both were knocked out of the NBA Playoffs early.  The city of L.A. got red hot over the Kings outstanding postseason run.  Many casual fans that disappeared when Wayne Gretzky left the team for the Rangers in the late 90′s were back.  The American Hockey scene needed this victory as well.  This could spark excitement and push the sport even further in the American Culture.

#3- MATT CAIN’S PERFECT PERFORMANCE (June 13th, 2012)

The Giants Matt Cain pitching perfection.
(Getty Images)

On the 13th of June the San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain threw baseball’s 22 perfect game ever.  This was the second perfect game this season, Phil Humber of the White Sox threw a perfect ball game in April against the Mariners in Seattle.  Matt Cain’s perfect game ended in a score of 10-0 against the Houston Astors.  Stat wise this could be considered one of the best perfect games ever.  Matt Cain struck out an impressive 14 batters during the game.  A feat which had only been done one time before when Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game in 1965.  The great game had a great moment at the end when Cain met his wife in the dugout to celebrate his history making performance with her.