Bonding Power and Speed

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bobby Bonds

Willie Mays was the prototype for the ballplayer who could hurt you with the long-ball bat or his speed on the base paths. No one in major league baseball could approach Mays in that combination of athletic skills until he was joined on the San Francisco Giants by a strong and talented outfielder named Bobby Bonds.

In his first five full seasons (1969-1973), Bobby Bonds averaged 31 home runs and 89 RBIs plus 41 stolen bases.

Bonds was signed by the Giants in 1964 and made his debut with the club four years later. In his first game, Bonds homered … with the bases loaded, becoming the second major league player to hit a grand slam in his first game. Playing half the 1968 season, Bonds finished with a .254 batting average, nine home runs, 35 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

In his first full season as the Giants’ right fielder, Bonds hit .259 with 32 home runs, 90 RBIs and 45 stolen bases. He also led the league by scoring 120 runs. Bond’s remarkable ability to combine power and speed continued throughout the next decade. In the 1970s, he hit .274 and averaged 28 home runs, 86 RBIs and 38 stolen bases per season.

Bonds had more than 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season five times in his career, still the major league record. In 1973 he led the National League in runs (131) and total bases (341). He was an All-Star three times (and was named MVP of the 1973 All-Star game) and won three Gold Gloves.

He was the complete ballplayer, just as his son, Barry, would be.

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Bobby Bonds’ best season as a slugger came in 1977. Playing for the California Angels, Bonds hit 37 home runs with a career-best 115 RBIs. He also stole 41 bases.

After seven seasons in San Francisco, Bonds was traded by the Giants to the New York Yankees for Bobby Murcer. Bonds became one of the most-swapped played in the majors during the rest of the 1970s, playing for the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs from 1976 through 1981.

He retired after the 1981 season with a career batting average of .268. He hit 332 home runs and stole 461 bases.

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Grand Slam Debut

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(June 25, 1968) In the third at-bat of his major league career, San Francisco Giants outfielder Bobby Bonds hit a grand slam off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher John Purdin.

Bobby Bonds became the first major league player in the Twentieth Century to hit a grand slam home run in his first game.

Bobby Bonds became the first major league player in the Twentieth Century to hit a grand slam home run in his first game.

In the game, the Giants beat the Dodgers 9-0 behind the two-hit pitching of left-hander Ray Sadecki (8-9).

In hitting a bases-loaded home run in his debut game, the 22-year-old Bonds joined Philadelphia Nationals pitcher Bill Duggelby as the only other player to accomplish that feat. Duggelby hit his first-game grand slam in 1898, in his first at-bat.

For his debut game, Bonds went one for three, with the grand slam being his first major league hit. He was hit by a pitch from Dodgers starter Claude Osteen (6-10) in the fifth inning.

Bonds appeared in 81 games during his rookie season, hitting .254 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. The next year, Bonds was an everyday outfielder for the Giants, hitting .259 with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs. He also led the National League in runs scored in 1969 with 120.

 

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Mercy, What a Ballplayer

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bobby Murcer

Throughout his Yankee career (which encompassed 13 of his 17 big league seasons), Bobby Murcer’s real competition was not major league pitching as much as the expectations that greeted his arrival in New York. He started his Yankee tenure as “the next Mickey Mantle,” an expectation that he could not fully live up to (who could?). Despite his years as a solid performer (and five-time All-Star), he’s remembered more in some circles for what he was not rather than what he was … and what he was was pretty darn good.

In 1972, Bobby Murcer led the American League in runs (102) and total bases (314). That same season he hit 33 home runs and drove in 96 runs, both career highs, and won a Gold Glove.

In 1972, Bobby Murcer led the American League in runs (102) and total bases (314). That same season he hit 33 home runs and drove in 96 runs, both career highs, and he won a Gold Glove.

Murcer was signed by the Yankees in 1964 and batted .365 and .322 in his first 2 minor league seasons, respectively. The comparison with Mantle, then in the waning years of his Hall of Fame career, was natural. Murcer was an Oklahoma native who excelled as a hitter, fielder and base runner. And with the Yankees in decline following five consecutive American League pennants, the Yankee faithful were hungry for a multi-threat savior who could carry the team back to glory.

After short stints with the Yankees in 1965 and 1966, Murcer spent 1967-1968 fulfilling a military obligation. His first full season was 1969, New York’s first season without Mantle. Murcer opened the season at third base and then moved to right field. More comfortable in the outfield, he performed well, batting .259 with 24 doubles, 26 home runs and 82 runs batted in.

Over the next three seasons, he hit .290 and averaged 27 home runs and 89 RBIs. In 1972 he led the American League in runs (102) and total bases (314). That same season he hit 33 home runs and drove in 96 runs, both career highs. He also won a Gold Glove.

These were solid, productive years, but none of “Mantle” proportions. And there were no pennants in New York during this period.

In 1974, his hitting numbers “slipped” to a .274 batting average with 10 home runs and 88 RBIs. After that season, the Yankees dealt Murcer to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Bobby Bonds. In his two seasons with the Giants, Murcer batted .279 and averaged 17 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1977 season, when he hit 27 home runs with 89 RBIs. His power numbers would decline steadily from this point on. He drove in 64 runs for the Cubs in 1978, and the next year was dealt back to the Yankees. He played in New York for five more seasons, mostly in a part-time role, batting .262 and averaging 10 home runs and 42 RBIs over that period. He retired nine games into the 1983 season.

For his career, Murcer batted .277 with 1,862 hits and 252 home runs.