Remembering Ryne Sandberg's return to Cubs, months after Michael Jordan's ‘I'm back' fax

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Wednesday marks the 25-year anniversary of one of the most famous press releases of all-time. Following a 17-month retirement from basketball, Michael Jordan announced his return to the Bulls via a fax message merely reading “I’m back.” 

Now, let me remind you of the time another Chicago athlete, one who also wore No. 23, shockingly retired before reversing course less than two years later. This, of course, being Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg.

Sandberg walked away from baseball on June 13, 1994, citing unhappiness with his play. The 34-year-old was mired in a 1-for-28 slump and was hitting .238/.312/.390 in 57 games. From a Chicago Tribune story that day: 

"I am not the type of person who can be satisfied with anything less than my very best effort and my very top performance," Sandberg said. "I am not the type of person who can leave my game at the ballpark and feel comfortable that my future is set regardless of my performance.

"And I am certainly not the type of person who can ask the Cubs organization and Chicago Cubs fans to pay my salary when I am not happy with my mental approach and my performance."

Seven months after Jordan’s return, Sandberg unretired, rejoining the North Siders on Oct. 31, 1995 following a 16-month hiatus.

Now, Jordan’s and Sandberg’s situations are apples and oranges. The Bulls were three-time defending NBA champions when Jordan walked away. The Cubs were 23-37 when Sandberg did, second to last in the National League.

RELATED: ‘I’m Back’: The 45 days in 1995 that drove Michael Jordan back to basketball

Behind Jordan’s return, the Bulls — three games above .500 at the time — finished the season 13-4, eventually losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jordan won the NBA MVP award in 1996 and 1998, leading the Bulls to another three-peat before retiring after the 1997-98 season.

The Cubs went 76-86 in 1996 and 68-94 in 1997. Sandberg hit .253/.313/.426 between the two seasons and hung up his spikes for good after.

Still, in a matter of months, two of Chicago’s biggest sporting icons returned to action. That’s pretty damn cool.

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