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Bonds got his break locally

TULLY TALK

Before there was Barry, there was Bobby.

Fans of Bobby Bonds -- and fans of baseball in general -- are

probably familiar with the statistics and the career of the

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well-rounded player who combined speed and power and carved a legacy

for himself with the San Francisco Giants.

Bobby is also well known for being the father of Barry Bonds, who,

when all is said and done, could be the best player of all time.

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Bobby Bonds died Saturday after a long battle with a variety of

ailments. He was 57.

Bonds was had problems over the past year, suffering from lung

cancer, brain and kidney tumors and heart disease. He had a tumor

removed from a kidney last year and recently underwent open-heart

surgery.

Many might not know Bobby Bonds got his big break in baseball

locally, playing in a game at the old Olive Park Stadium. It was at

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Olive Park where Bonds was spotted by a Giants’ scout, who was

determined to sign the young prospect to a major-league contract.

George Genovese, who was working as a scout for San Francisco in

1964, also coached an amateur baseball team. His squad was playing a

contest at Olive Park against a team that included Bonds.

Genovese said it was during that game when he made the decision to

offer a contract to the 18-year-old with speedy legs, an impressive

bat and a fine glove.

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"[Olive Park] is the field where we made the decision on Bobby

Bonds,” said Genovese, who worked as a Giant scout for 34 years.

"[Bonds] was from Riverside, and I was in charge of [scouting in]

the area, so I told scout Evo Pusich ‘When graduation comes, sign

him.’ ”

While he waited for Bonds to finish high school, Genovese worked

on signing a pair of future major leaguers -- Ken Henderson and Tom

Jones.

But Genovese was determined to get back in contact with Bonds and

get the player to ink a contract.

“When I came back, Bobby hadn’t been signed, and the fellow

running my team said he had a terrible game,” he said. “Evo Pusich

brought the head scout down from San Francisco and he didn’t like

Bobby.”

Although he was fighting with San Francisco officials who didn’t

think Bonds had a future in baseball, Genovese didn’t give up.

“I called the [San Francisco] office and said ‘I know he’s been

turned down, but he wants to play, and a $10,000 signing bonus is

agreeable to him,’ ” Genovese said.

Against the better judgment of some in the organization, the green

light was finally given to sign Bonds.

“I thought we were losing [a good player] if he didn’t sign,”

Genovese said. “I’d hate to see this kid get away from us.”

Genovese said Bonds told him he needed money and would be happy to

sign and accept the much-needed bonus. The player also told Genovese

an opportunity to play major league baseball is something he had

always dreamed of.

“I knew that at the time, [Bobby] was married,” he said. “His wife

was going to have a baby, and you know who that baby turned out to

be? Barry Bonds.

“He really needed the money back then. He wanted to go to

[college], but he had a family to support.”

“Bobby was a great athlete and he had tremendous speed”

During his career as a scout, Genovese helped discover or sign a

crop of players who went on to professional careers. Some of those

players are: George Foster, Garry Maddox, Gary Matthews, Dave

Kingman, Rob Deer, Chlli Davis, Matt Williams, Jack Clark, Matt

Nokes, Gary Thomasson, Randy Moffitt and John D’Acquistino.

For baseball purists, Bobby Bonds will always be much more than

just Barry’s dad. He enjoyed a 14-year playing career for the Giants,

New York Yankees, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Texas

Rangers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

He spent seven seasons as an outfielder with San Francisco, mostly

in the shadow of Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

He also spent 23 seasons with the Giants as a player, coach, scout

or front-office employee.

Bonds revolutionized the role of leadoff hitter, as his speed made

him a dangerous threat to get on base. And once he was on base, he

was always a threat to steal.

He hit at least 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in a season five

different times, becoming a member of baseball’s 30-30 club in the

1969 campaign, when he had 45 stolen bases and 32 homers. He also hit

30 home runs for five different teams.

Although Bonds never had the stellar career many believed he was

capable of, he did put up respectable numbers. Along with hitting 332

home runs, he also stole 461 bases and had a career .268 average.

Bonds still had a great career. In the 1973 All-Star Game, he hit

a home run, a double and drove in two runs and was named the most

valuable player in Kansas City in the National League’s 7-1 win.

In 1973, he played 160 games and led he National League with 131

runs and just missed being the game’s first 40-40 player, hitting 39

homers and stealing 43 bases. He also had a .283 batting average and

96 runs batted in.

That’s a pretty nice career for a player who made it to the majors

with the help of a local scout who didn’t give up on him.

* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be

reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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