Allentown Morning Call - March 24, 1980

Bobby Bonds finally loses the monkey and he’s a happy man


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


ST. PETERSBURG. Fla. – Bobby Bonds, a man with a superstar reputation but a roadmap career, says he is very, very happy. And a very, very happy Bobby Bonds could be a very, very dangerous man. 


"I'm probably more relaxed this year than at any other time in my career." said Bonds before his St. Louis Cardinals beat the Phillies 6-1 yesterday afternoon at Al Lang Stadium. "The difference between this ballclub and some of the others I've been with is that this team has a lot of talent and a legit chance to go all the way. 


“In some of the situations I've been in before (and we'll name them though it will take time) it was like I was brought there to bring them out of something they were in and the horses just weren't there. With the talent on this club, I just fit in. There is no pressure on me. I'm definitely more relaxed this year than in any year in the last six or seven. 


"You don't know how it is when you're in a pressure situation. At California, everything was on my shoulders. I had a lot thrown on me last year at Cleveland. But here? The monkey I ve had on my back the last four years is gone." 


Bonds is hitting near .500 so far this spring, while batting fifth in the order and adjusting to a new position, left-field. He hit a vicious line double to left yesterday to score a run. one of seven hits and five runs the Cards collected in four innings against an ineffective Randy Lerch. 


The saga of Bobby Lee Bonds is a rather strange one. He broke in with the Giants in 1968, carrying the rather weighty onus of being the next Willie Mays because of his Maysian combination of power and speed. He played 6½ seasons in San Francisco – some of them better than others but none of them miserable before embarking on an April to September tour of the United States.


He played for the Yankees in 1975. for the Angels in 1976 and 1977, for the White Sox and Rangers in 1978 and for the Indians in 1979 before St. Louis landed him in December for John Denny and Jerry Mumphrey. 


"There hasn't been as much unhappiness in my career as everybody likes to say," said Bonds when asked about the reasons for his being one of the country's higher-paid hoboes. "I've never been traded because of my ability or lack of it, so. because everyone knows my ability's there. Therefore, I'm the kind of guy, I guess, that clubs look for. 


"Sure. I've been unhappy and I've let it be known at times. But I've never been a troublemaker or anything like that. Kenny Boyer the Cardinals' manager) got me, simply, because he needed righthanded power." 


Bonds was asked if Boyer said anything to him on their first meeting about his reputation. 


"Let's see,” said Bonds, setting up his prey. "I think Kenny said. 'Hi, Bobby, how you doing?" 


Part of Bonds’ happiness is. of course, based on the fact that he is with a potential winner which he has not been for the last few years and was not in his final years with San Francisco. His only postseason appearance came in 1971 when the Giants lost to the Pirates in the National League playoffs. 


"Every ballplayer's ultimate goal is to play in the World Series," said Bonds. "And anybody who says it isn't, is lying. It very depressing when you play with a team that goes out and loses 100 ballgames. For me, this is the first time in five years I have a realistic chance of getting there. And I am lovin' it. Just lovin' it." 


Bonds is a marvelous athlete and. at 34. is still one of the better physical specimens in baseball. But, in point of fact, his career has not quite lived up to his reputation. He has had only one .300 season in the majors (1970 when he hit .302 with San Francisco) and he has not hit above .280 since 1973 when he hit .283 with the Giants. 


He has lived for years under the preseason promise that he might become the first major leaguer ever to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in one season. He is probably best known, in fact, for being the most prolific 30-30 man in baseball history. He's done that five times and, by comparison, Mays did it only twice.


He was asked how the loaded lineup of the Cardinals affects his personal stats. 


"Well, power-wise. I don't think Kenny Boyer got me over here just to hit home runs." said Bonds. "I'll get my share but so will (Ted) Simmons and (George) Hendrick and (Garry) Templeton will hit some. From all indications I'll be hitting fifth which is exactly where I would put me if I were managing. Keith (Hernandez) will hit third and Simmons will hit fourth and with the guys in front of them (Templeton and Tony Scott) 1 should get the opportunity to knock in a lot of runs. 


With this type of lineup, fifth is a real good spot to hit. 


"Stealing, well, I run only according to how the team needs me. I've never tried to lead a league in stolen bases (he never has) but. over the last decade he is fifth in steals), but I'll get my steals. If I have 40 steals you can bet it 's only because the team needed me to steal 40 times. I have a green light here just like I've had my whole career. 


NOTES: The Phillies made their first cuts yesterday and there weren't many upsets. Gone are: pitchers Marty Bystrom. Dan Larson. Jose Martinez. Bob Walk, Carlos Arroyo and Jim Wright; catcher Ozzie Virgil; infielders Jay Loviglio and Ramon Aviles; and outfielder Orlando Isales. The real hard cuts are going to go when the roster has to be trimmed from the current 36 to 25 when the team heads north… 


The Phillies have a day off today. Most will be playing in the annual Pina Colado Open at East Lake Woodlands C.C. It is so named because Steve Carlton brings along a thermos of the beverage which was recently immortalized by Rupert Holmes…


The big pitching news is that Nino Espinosa. plagued all spring by shoulder miseries, may pitch an inning or two tomorrow in a ‘B’ game against the Mets at Jack Russell Stadium. Can anybody imagine what a Mets' ‘B' team looks like.