In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees. By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues. Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.
Sunday, we continued our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #45. Today, we take a special bonus look at someone who wore #45 during a Windy City Classic exhibition game in 1994.
After winning his third NBA championship in the summer of 1993, Michael Jordan retired from basketball. He signed a contract with the White Sox in February of 1994, “I chose to try to play baseball just to see if I could,” Jordan said when he signed the contract. “I’m not doing it as a distraction and I’m not doing it as a media hog or looking for the media exposure from it. It’s one of the wishes my father had and I had as a kid.” Jordan’s father had been murdered the previous July and Jordan’s memories of his father played a large role in his deciding what he should do next.
Jordan, who hadn’t played baseball since high school, had a difficult spring training, hitting .152 in 46 at bats, and he was assigned to Double-A Birmingham. First, though, was the annual exhibition game between the two Chicago teams on April 7 at Wrigley Field. Jordan was penciled in to the starting lineup, batting sixth. In the sixth inning, Jordan hit an RBI single off veteran Dave Otto, and in the seventh, he bounced a Chuck Crim pitch down the third-base line for a game-tying double. The crowd, White Sox and Cubs fans alike, rose to their feet and roared, as Jordan smiled, stuck out his tongue, and tipped his helmet at second base.
Jordan finished the day 2 for 5, with 2 RBIs, an error, and base running gaffe. “Who would ever think I would be out there playing in Wrigley Field?” Jordan said. “It was a great feeling just to come out there and do well.” Jordan reported to Birmingham the following day and, after the labor strife that ended the 1994 season early spread in to 1995, Jordan left baseball, returned to the Bulls, and won another three NBA championships.