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Unsure thing: '92 Bonds deal a scramble

Slugger came to San Francisco during Winter Meetings after false start
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds, who spent a lot of time jogging unimpeded around the bases, actually began his Giants career with a false start.

Rewind a quarter-century to the 1992 Winter Meetings in Louisville, Ky. As the Meetings approached, Bonds was expected to sign with the Yankees. Then, as now, the Yankees were automatically mentioned as a likely destination for every talented, high-priced free agent. And few ballplayers, if any, seemed as talented as Bonds, who was fleeing the Pirates after winning his second National League Most Valuable Player Award in three years.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds, who spent a lot of time jogging unimpeded around the bases, actually began his Giants career with a false start.

Rewind a quarter-century to the 1992 Winter Meetings in Louisville, Ky. As the Meetings approached, Bonds was expected to sign with the Yankees. Then, as now, the Yankees were automatically mentioned as a likely destination for every talented, high-priced free agent. And few ballplayers, if any, seemed as talented as Bonds, who was fleeing the Pirates after winning his second National League Most Valuable Player Award in three years.

However, word swept through the Galt House hotel, headquarters for the Meetings, that a surprise team had joined the bidding for Bonds. That club was the Giants, with whom Bonds was more than well acquainted. His father, Bobby, spent the first seven years of a productive Major League career with San Francisco. Moreover, the franchise's leading legend, Willie Mays, happened to be Bonds' godfather.

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A late-night news conference was scheduled. Accompanied by his father and his agent, Dennis Gilbert, Bonds strode to the podium and began to speak. Suddenly, somebody approached Bonds, who was then hustled out of the room.

Before long, explanation replaced confusion: The Giants had recently been sold to Peter Magowan and a posse of local investors. Bob Lurie, the San Francisco's existing owner, didn't want to be responsible for Bonds' record-breaking, six-year, $43.75 million contract if Magowan's purchase weren't officially approved. The final, official vote of NL owners hadn't happened yet.

Larry Baer, now the Giants' president and chief executive officer, was part of a group that stayed awake until almost dawn to create contractual language that would protect Lurie and allow the Bonds deal to go through.

The incident illustrated the difference between Lurie and Magowan. Lurie was quoted as saying, "We did not want [Bonds] for the San Francisco Giants at that price." By contrast, Magowan was so eager to acquire Bonds that he ignored the formality of his pending ownership status.

With the ink dry on the clause absolving Lurie from any economic responsibility for Bonds, the principals for the news conference convened again -- this time without a hitch.

Bonds would go on to hit 586 homers in 15 seasons with the Giants, including four consecutive NL MVP Awards from 2001-04.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants