Richard Dent

The time Michael Jordan brought Richard Dent to his secret baseball practice

The time Michael Jordan brought Richard Dent to his secret baseball practice

In the winter of 1994, Michael Jordan was essentially in a baseball boot camp, driving from Highland Park to the South Side every day to prepare for his first spring training with the White Sox. The workouts were kept a secret and split between Comiskey Park and the facilities available at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Not surprisingly, Jordan approached those training sessions with the same relentlessness he did playing basketball.

“This guy was unbelievable,” longtime White Sox head trainer Herm Schneider said. “We worked seven days per week until basically we headed off to spring training. It was a lot and he was never a minute late, worked his butt off, always wanted to hit more. But we had to cut him off because I didn't want him to get hurt.”

But there was at least one week that Jordan didn’t work all seven days. And yes, a golf trip was involved.

“It's a Friday and he shows up with Richard Dent,” former White Sox outfielder Michael Huff said. Huff, who now runs the Bulls/Sox Academy, was among the group working with Jordan that winter, and even though he knew Dent personally, he was still surprised to see the Bears defensive end at the workout.

“I'm like, 'What are you doing over here?,’” Huff recalled. “And Michael said, 'Well, Charles Barkley is getting ready to come off the DL like Monday or Tuesday, so we're flying out to Phoenix and we're going to play 36 holes on Saturday and 36 on Sunday.' And I'm like, 'I'm going to be here Monday morning.' And he's like, 'I'll be here Monday morning, no problem.’”

Naturally, Huff was a little confused how Jordan planned to do all that in Arizona and still show up back in Chicago on Monday morning.

“He said, 'Don't worry about it. Let's get to work.’ So we start working out in the tunnel at Comiskey, go over to IIT,” Huff said. “He's having Richard now hit with us, and it's getting past noon and I'm like, 'Michael, what time's your flight?' And he's like, 'No, no, we got time. Don't worry about it.’”

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Meanwhile, Dent was trying to figure out how to play baseball.

“He has Richard doing all these drills with us. Richard looks so goofy trying to throw a baseball. Can't even begin to tell you,” Huff said. “And Michael is laughing more than I am at him, and then when he's trying to swing ... same thing.”

By that time it was almost 2 p.m. and Huff couldn’t figure out why Jordan wasn’t worried about getting stuck in Friday afternoon traffic if he had a flight to catch at O’Hare.

“So I look at Michael a third time, and I said, ‘Michael, you gotta go if you're flying out. What time is your flight? You're going to miss it if we don't get you going.’ And he stopped and he looked at me and he's like, 'Mike, I've got my own plane. When we decide to fly out, we'll get there and whenever we get there, the flight will leave. And after Sunday, the flight will be here Sunday night and I will be here Monday morning.'”

Not everyone has the ability to bring a Super Bowl MVP to baseball practice before jumping on a private plane to play 72 holes of golf with an NBA MVP in Phoenix, so you can understand why Huff was struggling to understand the logistics.

“Here was a guy who very easily on the first time I asked, could have said, “Oh, it's just my private jet. No big deal.’ But he didn't boast about that stuff and was just eager to learn, humble himself, work as hard as he could to get as good as he could in baseball,” Huff said.

For more behind-the-scenes tales from Michael Jordan's baseball career, listen to this recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

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Richard Dent sees similar ‘rule of three’ between 1985, current Bears

Richard Dent sees similar ‘rule of three’ between 1985, current Bears

Colleague John “Moon” Mullin frequently references Richard Dent’s “rule of three,” as in: Every good defense needs to have three good pass rushers. 

For Dent’s 1985 Bears, that was him, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael (Dent and Hampton went on to become Hall of Famers). And as Dent sees it, the current Bears have something similar. 

“When you look at it, (Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd) and then you got (Akiem) Hicks in the middle, you can’t double everybody,” Dent said this weekend at the Bears100 Celebration in Rosemont. “That’s just like us. To me, this team looks just like us in ’84, ’85 when we really started to jell to be the best we could be competing with one another.”

Mack, Hicks and Floyd combined for 24 sacks in 2018, and add Roquan Smith to that bunch and the Bears’ top four sack-getters had nearly as many sacks as the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (30). As a team, the Bears finished third in the NFL last year with 50 sacks. 

Dent, though, had a few words of caution for Mack: He’s getting to the point in his career where he can’t keep doing the exact same things he’s done so far, which has resulted in 53 sacks and three All-Pro appearances in five years. 

“There’s a lot of film out there,” Dent said. “So the point of it now is, people see things and this is where you have to judge and bring another wrinkle in your game. Because father time’s going to catch up. And when father time catches up, you have to have another wrinkle. And that wrinkle is going to have to take place between four and six years. If not, you’re doing the same things, people get it.”

That’s an interesting perspective coming from someone who averaged 14 sacks per season from 1984-1988 (his age 24 through 28 seasons), then averaged 10 1/2 sacks over his next five years (1989-1993, running through age 33). That production still got him into the Hall of Fame, of course, and the Bears surely would be pleased if Mack — whose contract runs through his age-33 season — averaged double-digit sacks for the duration of the largest deal for a defensive player in NFL history. 

Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary alluded to some more challenges for Mack coming down the road, too. 

“As we go forward, it’s going to get tougher, and it’ll be interesting to see how he overcomes some of those obstacles and how teams try to set him up,” Singletary said. 

Still, when asked which current player they liked watching, just about every Hall of Famer or Bears legend at last weekend’s Bears100 Celebration said Mack. 

“Are you kidding? No. 52,” Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus said only a few days after awarding the Pro Butkus Award to Mack at Halas Hall (Butkus also said he likes watching Roquan Smith, who won the collegiate Butkus Award while at Georgia). 

“How can you not say Mack?” Super Bowl-winning safety Gary Fencik said. 

But Dent’s perspective on Mack is particularly prescient, coming from one of the best pass rushers the franchise has ever seen. 

“He’s got leverage,” Dent said. “And he’s strong, he’s stronger than what you probably think. … I look at his size and physique and he looks like a natural old country strong boy that doesn’t really life any weights but naturally has the strength. But what I see is how he use the one-stab with his right hand. Again on the right side, it’s a little difficult, it’s different. The point of it is, I don’t know why they flip him so much, I think he’s better on the left and I think Floyd is better on the right and let it go. And if they’re going to double you then double you.”

Wilber Marshall overlooked for HOF? The ’85 Bears LB thinks so and he’s not alone

Wilber Marshall overlooked for HOF? The ’85 Bears LB thinks so and he’s not alone

The 1985 Bears already have three members of their epic defense — Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary — in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In more than one opinion, another of that group is overdue for Hall of Fame recognition.

Wilber Marshall. Linebacker. “Pit Bull,” to his teammates. The single best individual player on that defense, in some of their minds.

And in Marshall’s.

Rick "Goose" Gosselin, himself a Hall of Fame sportswriter (and voter) who created the special-teams ranking system used by every NFL team and now hosts "Talk of Fame Radio," did a six-part series of "Insiders & Outsiders," looking at a handful of players inexplicably passed over in the 94 HOF candidates in the Class of 2017. Marshall was among those six.

"It amazes me," Goose wrote to me this week, "that he can’t even get on the preliminary ballot ... Too many deserving players have slipped through the cracks without ever having any discussion."

Among those, for example: Detroit Lions left tackle Lomas Brown, who Dent rated along with Jimbo Covert as the two best tackles he ever faced.

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But the Marshall case is particularly intriguing.

He was an Academic All-American, the Bears’ No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft and under whose skin legendary coordinator Buddy Ryan got by mercilessly calling "Stupid."

Marshall was not, academically or football-wise. And as far as whether he belongs in the Hall, "Hate to say it," he told Goose, "but I do believe I should be there. I’m probably the only linebacker in history ... that I know of ... that played outside and inside linebacker (on the same Super Bowl unit).

"They had Mike [Singletary] sitting on the sidelines when I’m playing middle linebacker on third down. So I wasn’t just a rush guy, like the guys on the end that you see them go 90 percent of the time. Ten percent of the time they may drop. So I had a lot to learn."

As Goose and fellow hosts and HOF voters Ron Borges and Clark Judge chronicle, Marshall more than learned it. Marshall went on to win a second Super Bowl ring with the 1991 Washington Redskins. He was selected to Pro Bowls at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker and was a member of nine top-10 defenses in the span of his 12-year career.

"I just don’t get it," Marshall said.