Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of former San Francisco Giants star Bobby Bonds.For a team to find a player with
Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of former San Francisco Giants star Bobby Bonds.
For a team to find a player with outstanding power or outstanding speed is rare enough. But to find both in the same player is worthy of commemoration. And for parts of three decades, Bobby Bonds was the premier power-speed player.
Through Bonds' rookie year in 1968, only three players had ever picked up 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, with Willie Mays doing so twice. But in his second season, Bonds went deep 32 times while swiping 45 bases.
Bonds would go on to pick up four more 30-30 seasons over the next decade, a record that would stand until his son, Barry, tied his record in 1997.
"This is something that I was gifted with," the elder Bonds said, "and I really love to do it."
One of the premier leadoff hitters of his era, Bonds had a knack for the spectacular. In his third career at-bat, he hit a grand slam off reliever John Purdin. That made him only the second player in the modern era to hit a grand slam in his first game, after Bill Duggleby in 1898.
Over his 14-year career, Bonds hit a then-record 35 leadoff home runs, passing Eddie Yost's previous record of 28 in 1975. He also set the single-season [lead-off] homer record with 11 in 1973, which stood until Brady Anderson broke it in 1996.
Although he has not been elected to the Hall of Fame, Bonds got his fair share of accolades. A three-time All-Star, Bonds was named the MVP of the 1973 Midseason Classic. He also picked up three Gold Glove Awards and followed Mays as the second ever player to accumulate 300 career home runs and stolen bases.
But alongside all of the offensive fireworks, Bonds also was known for his prolific strikeout rate. Bonds struck out a single-season record 187 times in his first full season, and then whiffed 189 times the following year in 1970. That record stood for more than three decades until Adam Dunn struck out 194 times in 2006.
Bonds spent the longest portion of his career with the Giants, but also played with the Yankees, Angels, White Sox, Rangers, Indians, Cardinals and Cubs. Three years after his retirement, Bonds became a hitting instructor with the Indians, and eventually rejoined the Giants as a coach in 1993 when Barry signed with the team.
"My dad played 14 years in Major League Baseball and was a really great baseball player," the younger Bonds said. "He became my mentor and my coach. I've never had a coach outside my father in hitting, ever."
Bobby Bonds passed away in 2003 after a battle with lung cancer and a brain tumor. Although he never got to see his son become the all-time home run leader, he did get to see his son break the single-season record in 2001, and joins Barry as the only player to ever hit 300 home runs and steal 400 bases, or have five 30-30 seasons.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib.