- CF, OF, RF, DH, LF
- March 15, 1946
- 6' 1"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 6-25-1968 with SFN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1971 GG, 1973 AsMVP, 1973 GG, 1974 GG
Several factors, including the long shadow of teammate Willie Mays, have left Bobby Bonds as a footnote in baseball history, but for several seasons he was an exciting player. He was born ahead of his time, blending power and speed the way many players would later. His son became the best player of his generation, proving his father's bloodlines were much better than those of the Griffey clan.
Best Season: 1973
Bonds had several seasons of very similar value. One could easily argue that his 1970, 1971, or even his 1975 season with the Yankees were his best, but 1973 was very good as well. In his prime at 27 years old, Bonds played in a career high 160 games and led the league with 131 runs scored. Still used in the leadoff role on occasion (he set a record with 11 leadoff homers), he managed to drive in 96 runs on the strength of 39 home runs - also a career best. Swiping 43 bases, he just missed becoming baseball's first 40/40 man. he had 12 assists in the outfield and turned five double plays, winning a Gold Glove. His 341 total bases led the NL, and his 130 runs created ranked third.
Bonds was the Southern California Schoolboy Athlete of the Year in 1964, and was quickly signed by the San Francisco Giants. By the middle of the 1968 season he was with the big league club, blasting a grand slam in his first major league game. In 1969, he was the starting right fielder, playing to the left of Willie Mays, who became Bonds' closest friend.
With his blazing speed, Bonds was the leadoff man for the Giants, and in 1969 he shared the NL lead with 120 runs scored, the first of five consecutive seasons he topped 100 tallies. Bonds stats were unusual: he collected 200 hits in 1970 despite 189 strikeouts; he drove in 90 runs as a leadoff man; he stole 40 bases five times for the Giants while also topping twenty homers six times.
Bonds averaged 34 home runs and 41 stolen bases from 1969-74, and came close to becoming the first player to reach the 40-40 milestone in 1973. He remembered:
"I went into September with 35 home runs, I only had to hit five the whole month and I wound up hitting four... the last day of the season I hit three balls up against the wall."
Bonds and Mays were a fantastic defensive outfield combination for four seasons and then Bobby combined with Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox for what he believes was "the fastest outfield that's ever been put on a baseball field." In addition to speed in right field, Bonds had a great arm and averaged 10 assists in his 14-year career.
For the five-season stretch of 1969-1973, Bonds ranked first in the NL in runs scored, and second in doubles, extra-base hits, and total bases, third in steals, games played, and at-bats, fourth in hits, and fifth in home runs. He was a two-time NL All-Star (MVP of the '73 contest), and three-time Gold Glove winner. Yet, after the 1974 season he was dealt to the New York Yankees for Bobby Murcer, also an All-Star outfielder. It was a high-profile, controversial transaction, one that failed to deliver desired results to either team.
Bonds was an All-Star for the Yankees in 1975, hitting 32 homers and stealing 30 bases. But New York sent him to the Angels in the off-season for Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa – a deal that helped deliver three straight pennants to the Yankees. In the meantime, Bonds played for six teams over the next six years and retired.
For the Angels, Bonds had one of his best seasons in 1977 at the age of 32. He played in 158 games, scored 103 runs, belted 37 homers, drove in a career-best 115 runs, and stole 41 bases. Yet Bobby was again traded at the end of the 1977 campaign, this time to the Chicago White Sox, where he never quite fit in. The ChiSox dealt him to the Texas Rangers in 1978, where Bonds hit 29 homers and drove in 82 runs in 130 games. In 1979 he had a typical year – 25 more homers, 34 more steals, 85 RBI, and 135 strikeouts.
Bonds played sparingly in 1980 and 1981 without much success. He retired in 1981 with 332 career homers, 461 steals, and 1,757 whiffs. His 189 strikeouts in 1970 and 187 K’s in 1969 were the top two single-season totals in baseball history when he retired. At the time he left the game, only Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson had struck out more.
Several seasons after his retirement, Bobby Bonds joined the Giants coaching staff the same year his son, Barry, joined the team (1993). At the close of the 2000 season, the Bonds’ were the only two men to have five 30-home run, 30-steal seasons.
Together on the Giants, Bobby and Barry grew closer, and in 2002, Bobby finally got to the World Series (in a way), when Barry and the Giants advanced to meet the Anaheim Angels. Despite the loss in the Fall Classic, Barry's phenomenal exploits on the field helped rekindle interest in Bobby's forgotten career. Barry, wearing his father's #25, hit home runs to win two of the first three games he played in after spending time with his ailing father in August 2003. A few days later, Bobby died.
- Bobby Bonds