Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, sat numb Tuesday night in his private luxury suite at Comiskey Park, too dazed to pay attention to the baseball game being played below.
It was as if somebody was playing a cruel joke. He kept waiting for Michael Jordan and his wife to turn around and laugh, telling him it was a gag.
If it wasn't bad enough having to watch his White Sox being pummeled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-3, in Game 1 of the American League playoffs, his basketball club had already crumbled.
Jordan, who drew a thunderous standing ovation from a crowd of 46,246 by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, informed Reinsdorf earlier that he is retiring from the NBA. Jordan will publicly announce his decision at a news conference today.
Reinsdorf pulled aside several guests in his suite during the game, privately informing them of the news. He was devastated, and so shaken by the turn of events that he left the game before the ninth inning.
"He couldn't believe this was happening," a source said. "He was stunned, absolutely stunned. This was supposed to be his shining moment. My God, he waited 10 years for his team to be in the playoffs, and for this to happen. . . .
"Who wouldn't be devastated?"
Jordan, wife Juanita and agent David Falk broke the news to Reinsdorf on Tuesday afternoon, and remained for the game. Although there was immediate speculation that this could be a negotiating ploy by Jordan for a contract extension, Reinsdorf discounted the possibility.
"Jerry knows Jordan is serious," the source said. "He told him, 'The thrill is gone.' He had nothing more to accomplish in basketball.'
"Can you imagine? It would be devastating enough at any time, but on the first day of the playoffs? Bud Selig (baseball's acting commissioner) came up to console him, but Jerry was just feeling terrible."
While Jordan's departure is expected to be catastrophic to the Bulls' future, the White Sox's immediate fate could be equally grim.
The Blue Jays had 17 hits, a club postseason record, and what made it so calamitous to the White Sox was that Jack McDowell incurred most of the damage.
McDowell, who was 22-10 during the regular season and is the probable Cy Young winner, looked as if he were throwing batting practice against the Blue Jays. He surrendered a season-high 13 hits and seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Third baseman Ed Sprague, who was last seen this time of year hitting a game-winning home run in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series, tormented McDowell by himself, going four for four with a two-run triple. It was only the second triple of Sprague's major league career, spanning 759 at-bats.
Paul Molitor, playing in his first postseason game since 1982, also had four hits, including a two-run homer in the seventh, while driving in three runs. John Olerud, who toyed with a .400 batting average until September, had three hits and scored three runs.
Who could blame the Blue Jays for being confident?
"Now, it's easy for us," said Blue Jay starter Jose Guzman, who won despite walking eight and throwing three wild pitches in six innings. "We beat their best. Our hitters are on, and now they're relaxed."
It hardly mattered that Guzman was providing the White Sox every opportunity to win, setting an American League playoff record with three wild pitches. The White Sox scored only three runs in six innings against him--all in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead--and had only one hit after he left.
"If you don't take advantage of his wildness," White Sox Manager Gene Lamont said, "you're going to be in trouble. We never could get the big hit."
The Blue Jays scored all of their runs with two out, while the White Sox failed miserably in the clutch. The White Sox stranded 13 runners, nine alone by right fielder Ellis Burks.
"We still can't take Chicago for granted," Sprague said. "It's not that we're unbeatable, it's just that we have so many good hitters in our lineup that it's hard to shut them all down."
Perhaps someone in the Blue Jay clubhouse might have predicted a sweep if the topic of conversation had remained about the game, but everywhere you turned, people were talking about Jordan.
"I feel as bad as anyone in the city of Chicago about this," said Joe Carter, Blue Jay right fielder. "I mean, I named my son after him--Jordan Alexander. He's a genuinely great person. To have everything taken away from him like this just isn't fair."
Said teammate Devon White, who was overjoyed by the news: "I've only got one thing to say. The Phoenix Suns are going to win it all next year."
White has Sun season tickets.
White Sox designated hitter Frank Thomas, who was walked an American League playoff record four times, appeared as upset over Jordan's news as his team's defeat.
"It's a sad day for sports," Thomas said. "I mean, everybody loves that guy."
Also today, the Cubs are expected to announce their decision whether or not to fire Manager Jim Lefebvre.
"What a day," said Eddie Einhorn, White Sox vice chairman. "It starts off with that crazy story that we're giving Frank Thomas $44 million, and ends with this. You talk about distractions.
"I've got to think that (Toronto president) Paul Beeston is behind all this."