Michael Jordan, baseball, Harry Caray and the Crosstown Classic

May 30, 2013|By Jack M Silverstein, @readjack | RedEye

While scanning YouTube for Crosstown Classic clips, I came upon this gem from 1994, back when the game was a yearly charity event before the days of interleague play. The ’94 game at Wrigley Field is the only one for which I recall any specific detail, and it’s not exactly because the Sox’s starting right-fielder was a 31-year-old rookie, but more specifically because the right-fielder was Michael Jordan.

Here, then, are 23 observations and notes on the video in honor of No. 45. (In order of appearance …)

>> The game was played Thursday, April 7, 1994. The White Sox had just lost two of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto, while the Cubs opened the season at home against the Mets, getting swept by a combined 11 runs.

>> 0:00 Holy crap--it’s Harry Caray! This was four years before his death, and I honestly did not remember him being quite so Harry-Caray-y. He’s a walking Will Ferrell sketch. Just the sound of his voice (“Michael, I want you to know ...”) convinced me that Harry was about to ask Jordan if he would eat himself in the event of being both starving and a hot dog. Sure enough, I scroll down and a commenter has beat me to it. This is gonna be good …

>> 0:06 Harry tells MJ that seeing the great Bulls guard in a baseball uniform is “the greatest thrill of my life.” I have no way to cross check this, but I’d love to know all the other instances in which Harry declared on the air that something was the greatest thrill of his life.

>> 0:32 It’s 32 seconds before Harry finally asks a question, but it’s not even a question--he merely makes a statement about Jordan’s dream of becoming a major-leaguer and then pauses, allowing Jordan a chance to speak.

>> 0:47 Harry asks Michael if he’s “been on the bus yet?” for road trips, and then laughs ferociously and leans way back like he might pass out. >> 0:55 In a nod to Jordan’s eventual decision to rent a beautiful new team bus for the Birmingham Barons, MJ tells Harry: “You travel as a team, so I will be taking the bus. It may be a nicer bus, but I will be taking the bus.”

>> 1:01 It’s also worth noting that while MJ was popular for his skills and achievements, he was also admired for his looks--not in a handsome sense (though he was that too) but in a “cool” sense. Everything the man did had a touch of the Fonz. Same goes for his baseball uniform. He carried it well and looked fresh as hell in that black White Sox jersey.

>> 1:07 Is it me or did Harry almost drop some good, old-fashioned subtle racism? “Michael I tell ya, everybody knows what a tremendous man you are. A real gentleman. A real credit … to a community.” Good save, Harry!

>> 1:18 When Harry holds the mic up for Jordan and the camera sits on that profile shot, Harry’s head looks like the caricature the team popularized after his death. I really just don’t remember him being this much of a living parody.

>> 1:20 Fun to hear MJ use the phrase “the game of baseball,” as in how his struggling “really gives credit to the game of baseball.” “The game of basketball” was one of Jordan’s favorite hoops phrases--he used it four times in one minute during his 1993 retirement speech, and used it eight times total in his 1999 retirement.

>> 1:47 Harry Caray, never a man to mince words: “You know Michael, already from reading about what you’ve done in baseball, I’ve deducted that hitting a baseball is your biggest problem.”

>> 2:06 Jordan answers Harry’s statement-question about struggling to hit a baseball with confidence, and it’s worth noting that he really sounds like a ballplayer when describing the hitting process: “It’s tough. You’re back there, trying to guess with the pitcher, basically. You’re anticipating your rhythm off the pitcher’s motions. And all those things come into play that people don’t take into account.”

>> 2:30 Harry asks Jordan what sport might be next for him, facetiously suggesting hockey. He does, however, ask Jordan if he will consider returning to hoops, and Jordan--the man of the “never say never” edict--tells Harry that after baseball, he’s just going to enjoy his retirement.

>> 3:05 Love the cutaway to the overhead shot of the media scrum around MJ and Harry. The camera angle used throughout the interview makes it look as if the two men are nearly alone in the middle of the field, but this shot tells the full story.

RedEye Chicago Articles