After Michael Jordan took batting practice July 25, 1990, at Comiskey Park, several MJ baseball cards flooded the market.
All of these cards were unlicensed and rather cheap looking, so when Upper Deck offered the first licensed Jordan baseball card in 1991, it was a big deal.
The card was inserted into packs of 1991 Upper Deck low-series (packs containing cards Nos. 1 through 700) baseball cards. It is what is referred to in the baseball-card industry as an “insert” card, which is a bonus card outside of the main set. That being said, since it’s not part of the main set, it’s not considered his true baseball “rookie card.” That came in 1994.
The card itself features a shot of Jordan in the batting cage, finishing his swing with a look on his face as if he just made some sweet contact. MJ wears a red batting practice jersey and the 1987 through 1990 style of cap with the curly “C” on a dark blue background with a red brim. The card is numbered “SP1.” SP stands for “short print” as the print run of the cards is smaller than those in the regular 700-card base set. The image on the back of the card is Jordan in uniform with a glove.
The text on the back of the card reads:
On July 25, 1990, before the White Sox entertained the Cleveland Indians, Sox fans had the opportunity to see what #23 — the man simply known as “Michael” — could do with a baseball bat. Jordan impressed everyone by blasting two homers, with the second one soaring into the “Upper Deck.”
Michael Jordan was spotlighted as the White Sox “Secret Weapon.” After taking batting practice, Michael posed in a White Sox uniform for a souvenir poster with all proceeds going to his charity, the Michael Jordan Foundation.
There is some debate as to how rare the card actually was. Upper Deck, in a Jan. 18, 1991, article in the Chicago Tribune, said there would be “five to six Jordan cards per 10,800-card case,” which is a really strange way to word it. There are 15 cards a pack, 36 packs in a box, 20 boxes in a case: 15 x 36 x 20 = 10,800. So in other words, five to six for every 720 packs. At a buck a pack (often $1.29), it could take quite a bit of allowance money to get one.
Also in that Tribune article, there was speculation that an “Upper Deck executive gave between 10,000 to 25,000 (Jordan) cards to selected dealers as a ‘favor.’”
So exactly how rare are these cards anyway? It’s tough to say. Some sources today list the card as coming at a rate of one in every 72 packs (a box of packs contains 36 packs, so one in every two boxes of packs). Personally, as someone who bought a lot of packs of the cards back in 1991, I can attest that it was pretty tough to get. I must have opened at least 30 to 40 packs and never pulled one of these Jordan cards, though I eventually bought one on its own.
When the cards first came out in early January 1991, the Jordan card was fetching around $35, but settled down to between $8 and $15 within a few weeks. Today, you could probably still get one in that same range on eBay. Cards from that era were produced in ridiculous numbers and are fairly easy to find. That being said, it’s still a really neat card and an excellent, reasonably priced addition to anyone’s collection.
For comparison, here's what one of those unlicensed, cheap-looking cards looked like:
So what happened on July 25, 1990, after batting practice?
Well, the White Sox didn’t fare too well. They lost 6-1 to the Indians. Bud Black went all the way for Cleveland, allowing just three hits and an unearned run. That run came in the second inning when Ron Kittle (who drove our own Ryan McGuffey to the game that day) reached on error and was doubled home by Ron Karkovice.
What about Carlos Martinez, whose bat Michael Jordan used to clobber two home runs in batting practice? He went 0-for-3 with a sac bunt and struck out to end the game. But at least he had an interesting story to tell.
Of course, it wouldn't be the last time Jordan appeared on a baseball card in a White Sox uniform:
Hear more about the day Michael Jordan took batting practice at Comiskey Park on this recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.