“The Last Dance” has brought a flood of Michael Jordan stories. This might be one of the best.
During Jordan’s season playing minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the White Sox, he drove the team bus. Seriously. He drove it.
Legend has it that Jordan bought the bus the Barons took on road trips so he and his teammates could travel in greater comfort than the typical Double-A squad. That, apparently, was not the case.
“It makes for a great story and a much better story to say he bought the bus. But that’s far from the truth,” Barons broadcaster Curt Bloom told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He didn’t buy the bus. … His name helped arrange a leasing agreement. He was working on it in spring training, and he wasn’t really familiar with how we traveled.
“But I make this perfectly clear: He did not write a check. Three companies got together and said, ‘If we can get a promo out of this, that’s good enough for us because we know it’s going to be the Jordan Cruiser and people will remember this for the rest of their lives.’”
Well, regardless of whether his name was on the title or not, Jordan got behind the wheel of the thing during one Barons road trip.
“For a couple of miles on an open highway, completely open highway, he actually jumped in the driver’s seat and was driving,” Bloom said. “We made a switch probably going 70 miles an hour, and our bus driver got up and Michael sat in there and went straight. I certainly hope this doesn’t get anybody in trouble. The Department of Transportation, we’re sorry, and the statute of limitations has passed.
“It made a funny story. Michael Jordan driving a bleeping bus? If you’re driving somewhere in the Southeast, let’s say we were going to Carolina, you look up from your car and go, ‘I know, honey, I must be doing something illegal because I just saw Michael Jordan drive a bus.’
“It was for a laugh, and he got a good laugh out of it. It wasn’t for a very long stretch, but it was just one of those things where everyone’s egging him on. I go, ‘You can do it, you can do it.’ It just added to that year.”
Who knows if any motorists passed by and spotted the greatest basketball player ever driving a bus full of minor leaguers. The Barons got up to some other antics on road trips, pranking convenience store clerks with their world-famous teammate in tow.
“Can you imagine stopping at 3 o’clock in the morning in a convenience store anywhere in the Southeast, and this 6-foot-6, more-than-life guy walks off the bus and says, ‘I’ll get a bag of chips and a Coke’?” Bloom recalled. “And there were times, there were places where there were Gatorade posters. And we, the Barons, would mess with the convenience store people ad nauseum until they couldn’t take it anymore.
“‘That’s not really him.’ ‘Yes it is really him. Look who just came into your store at 3 o’clock in the morning!’ We all got a real good kick out of that.”
For more behind-the-scenes tales from Michael Jordan's baseball career, listen to this recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.