Bobby Bonds, one of the most well rounded ballplayers in Major League history and the senior member of the greatest father-son tandem in baseball history, died August 23rd after a long battle with a variety of ailments.
Despite playing alongside the legendary Willie Mays and fathering the greatest player of the next generation, Bonds carved out his own legacy as a San Francisco Giants player. He was his own man and was the prototype of the modern-day leadoff hitter, armed with a sprinter's legs and potent lumber.
"Bobby was a clubhouse leader and a great player in his own right," said longtime friend and former Giants third baseman Jim Davenport. "He played hard and always gave his best. He was a good ballplayer if not a superstar. Some people compared him to Mays, but he did well. I've known him for all these years."
Bonds was in his 23rd season with the Giants as either a player, coach, scout or front-office employee. This year he entered his 7th year as a special assistant, after also serving as a hitting instructor and scout.
Even this year as he suffered through chemotherapy and failing health, Bonds still found time to advise his superstar son on his swing, which was out of sync to start the season. "He's been with me my whole career," said Barry Bonds during his father's earlier medical setbacks. "He's my dad, and it doesn't feel the same when he's not here."
There was a magic baseball umbilical cord between the two men, separated by only 18 years in age and sharing athletic DNA in every muscle and corpuscle. Bobby Bonds blasted a grand slam for his first Major League hit in 1968, while Barry Bonds would begin his literally booming career with homer No. 1 in 1986, only 5 seasons after his dad retired.
The elder Bonds told one interviewer that watching his son in his big-league debut as a Pittsburgh Pirate was one of his greatest-ever thrills, and that the young Bonds would never fail to end their numerous telephone calls with "I love you, Dad."
Bonds had suffered from a variety of ailments over the past year, including lung cancer, brain and kidney tumors and heart disease. He had a tumor removed from a kidney last year and recently underwent open-heart surgery.
Strongly built and blessed with speed, Bonds would slug 332 lifetime homers; steal 461 bases, while posting a career .268 average. In addition to the Giants Bonds played for the New York Yankees, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs over a stellar 14-year career.
Bobby Bonds hit at least 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in a season 5 different times, a record only equaled by his son Barry.
Bonds would never prove to be another Willies Mays, yet Bonds dubbed the Say Hey Kid as son Barry's godfather, and the threesome would prove inseparable.
However, Bobby Bonds still had a great career. In 1973, he was the All-Star Game MVP in Kansas City by belting a homer and double with two RBIs in the National League's 7-1 win. In 1971, he finished 4th in the National League MVP balloting, then was third three years later behind Pete Rose and Willie Stargell.
Bobby Bonds had his best season in 1973, playing 160 games, leading the National League with 131 runs and just missing being the game's first 40-40 player, hitting 39 homers and stealing 43 bases.
Speed and power, that's what he was made of. He was not ebullient and talkative and excitable like Mays, perhaps because of pressure to succeed and exceed Mays' numbers. One of his dubious achievements was striking out 1,757 times, including a Major League record 189 K's in 1970. He would whiff one in every four at-bats.
Bobby Bonds was originally signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent in 1964. When his son signed to play with the Giants in 1993 he would wear the same number 25.
He is survived by his mother, Elizabeth, wife Pat, his three sons -- Barry, Ricky and Bobby Jr. -- and a daughter, Cheryl Dugan.
Barry Bonds spent several days away from Spring Training to fly back to the Bay Area to visit his ill dad, who was later diagnosed with a brain tumor. Bobby Bonds had felt OK at times and visited the clubhouse on several occasions this season, but had been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks.
Bobby Bonds last visited Pacific Bell Park in a wheelchair to see his son Barry play one last time just 3 days before his passing. Just a few days after his MVP son missed a series in Montreal to be by his bedside. However, there were no ceremonies, only a quick mention on the giant video screen, as per the Bonds' family wishes.
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