Perhaps it is appropriate that Bobby Bonds is not wearing a cap in his 1981 Topps Card. At that time I was always wondering what team he would be playing for next. No one team seemed to employ him very long.
Two players who played the bulk of their early career with the San Francisco Giants seemed to be on a new team every year when I was growing up. Gaylord Perry bounced around almost as much as Bonds did.
I did not know then some of the demons he was fighting.
I also did not know that his son would wind up being one of the most significant if not polarizing figures in baseball history.
Bonds came from an athletic family. His brother Robert was an NFL draft pick. His sister Rosie was an Olympian. Bobby was a track star and a baseball stand out in Riverside, California and was signed by the Giants in 1964.
By 1968, the 22 year old Bonds was in San Francisco, showing off his power, speed and defense and fit along side center fielder Willie Mays perfectly.
Mays took Bonds under his wing, became Godfather to Barry and provided a lethal combination in San Francisco.
Bonds hit 32 homers, stole 45 bases and posted an .824 OPS in 1969. He also set a major league record for strikeouts in a single season with 187.
The very next season, he would break his own record and whiff 189 times. But he also batted .302, homered 26 times, stole 48 bases and collected 200 hits.
By 1971, he was an All Star, setting career highs with 33 homers and 102 RBI while cutting his strikeout total by 52.
He went 4 for 5 in a May 30th win against Montreal and homered twice in a game against the Dodgers on September 14th. The Giants would win the NL West and Bonds got his first and it turned out only post season experience. He would reach base 4 times in the NLCS against Pittsburgh. But he would not score a run nor drive one in as the Giants fell to Pittsburgh.
It would also be his last full season with Willie Mays. His mentor was traded to the Mets early in the 1972 season to finish his career in New York where it started. In 1973, Bonds had his best season, leading the league with 131 runs scored and 341 total bases, driving in 96 and posting an OPS of .900. He narrowly missed being the first person ever to get 40 homers and 40 steals in a single season. He got 43 steals but only 39 homers. He was named NL Player of the Year by the Sporting News. He took home a Gold Glove and finished third in the NL MVP vote to Pete Rose and Willie Stargell.
But problems in the clubhouse and with his alcoholism led to his welcome being worn out in San Francisco. In 1975, one fixture of San Francisco, Bonds, was swapped for a Yankee fixture, Bobby Murcer.
Bonds was an All Star as the Yankees played their final season in Shea during the renovation of the stadium, swatting 32 homers and stealing 30 bases. It would be his only season in the Bronx. In fact it began a merry go round for Bonds that made the back of his baseball card cluttered.
For the first 7 years of his career, he played for one team: The Giants. For the next 7 years of his career he played for 7 different teams.
I first remembered him with the Angels, according to his 1978 card. Little did I know that in 1978 alone, he played for the White Sox and the Angels. He remained a productive slugger in Anaheim, Arlington and later Cleveland in 1979.
By the time he arrived in St. Louis for 1980, his power stroke was gone and so was his speed. He played 45 games as a Chicago Cub in 1981 before calling it a career.
He returned to Cleveland as a hitting instructor after his retirement. By 1986, while he was still employed by Cleveland, his son Barry became an every day player for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A lot has been written about how Barry felt his father was not treated well by the press. Much has been speculated that the son’s attitude towards the media and other people in the baseball establishment was planted by resentment and anger to slights made to the father. This might be pop psychology. This might be 100% true.
Both the father and the son had terrific if complicated careers in San Francisco. There should be a plaque that has retired 25 for “BONDS” on the Giants.
Which Bonds is honored with that retirement? Take your pick.
Of course he wasn’t wearing a hat in this card. His team was always the Giants.