Bobby Bonds dies of lung cancer, brian tumor at age 57

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO Bobby Bonds, one of the first major leaguers to blend home-run power with base-stealing speed and the father of one of baseball's greatest sluggers, died Saturday. He was 57.

Barry Bonds' father had been ill for nearly a year with lung cancer and a brain tumor, but he never lost his love for baseball. He was at Pacific Bell Park on Wednesday night, watching his superstar son and the San Francisco Giants.

Bobby Bonds died shortly before 9 a.m. PDT, a Giants spokesman said. Barry Bonds will be away from the team indefinitely.

The Giants and their fans observed a touching moment of silence before Saturday's game against Florida. A sellout crowd rose and stood in near-complete quiet at the stadium on the busy San Francisco bay waterfront as photographs of Bonds in his San Francisco playing days flashed on the scoreboard.

Bonds' health had been in decline for many months. In early June, he spent time in the hospital while fighting pneumonia. He underwent surgery on a brain tumor in April and also endured many rounds of chemotherapy.

''It's a very sad day, but I want to remember him the way he used to be, having a good time and making jokes,'' said Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, Bonds' longtime friend and former teammate. ''I'm happy that he's resting in peace.''

Bobby Bonds, a three-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1973 game, hit 332 home runs and stole 461 bases for the Giants, New York Yankees, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Texas, Cleveland, St. Louis and the Chicago Cubs.

He began his career with a bang, hitting a grand slam in his first game on June 25, 1968. He's the only player in the modern era to accomplish that feat.

''This is a great loss for the Giants family,'' San Francisco owner Peter Magowan said. ''We want the Bonds family to know that they're in our thoughts and prayers. Bobby has meant so much to this organization for such a long time.

''It will be strange not to see him in the clubhouse and working on the field with Barry and our other players. He will be greatly missed.''

Bobby Bonds was a dazzling player who approached every aspect of the game with aggression for better and worse. He led the majors in strikeouts three times in his first six seasons, setting the single-season record with 189 in 1970.

He hit .268, had 1,024 RBIs and won three Gold Glove awards as an outfielder and his blend of power and speed was nearly unmatched.

''I remember he was the best-looking runner I've ever seen,'' Cepeda said. ''Nobody stole second base as easily as Bobby Bonds.''

Though he often was overshadowed by close friend and longtime teammate Willie Mays, Bonds became the fourth player ever to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season in 1969 with the Giants.

Mays, Barry Bonds' godfather, was the only player to do it more than once before Bobby Bonds accomplished the feat five times in his 14-year career. Barry Bonds also has done it five times; no other player has reached the mark more than three times.

''He was a little bit ahead of his time,'' said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, Bonds' former teammate. ''You didn't see a lot of guys of his stature as leadoff hitters. Bobby was a big, strong guy.''

A native of Riverside, Calif., Bobby Bonds signed with the Giants in 1964 out of high school.

He played just one season with the Yankees, but became the first 30-30 player in the team's storied history with 32 homers and 30 steals in 1975.

Bonds played seven seasons with San Francisco, and he was with the organization for 23 seasons as a player, coach, scout or front-office employee. Bonds served as the club's hitting coach from 1993-96, and since then has been a special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean.

Bonds was a frequent presence in the Giants' clubhouse, where he often chatted with his son, Mays, Willie McCovey, Cepeda and any other players within range.

Barry Bonds, who leads the majors with 39 homers, left the team for four days during a road trip last week to be with his father.

''There's a man who's been coming into this clubhouse since I've been here,'' Giants outfielder Marvin Benard said. ''He was my hitting coach my first two years. He's healthy and everything's great, and then, bam. It's been hard on us. I can't imagine what it's been like for Barry.''

Bonds spent his final years enjoying the rise of his son on baseball's career homers list and his development into the game's best active player. Barry Bonds hit extra-inning, game-winning homers against Atlanta on Tuesday and Thursday, then rushed from the clubhouse after each blast to be with his father.

''Maybe Bobby could have had Hall of Fame numbers and maybe he didn't reach his potential, but Barry Bonds will always make people remember that name,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Cepeda recalled a conversation with Bobby Bonds at a golf tournament in Cleveland several years ago.

''He told me, 'My son is going to be the best ever,''' Cepeda said. ''I said, 'Bobby, that's what everybody thinks about their son!' ... He was so proud. Sometimes he wouldn't show any emotions, but he was very proud.''

Bonds is survived by his wife, Pat; a daughter, Cheryl Dugan; and three sons: Barry, Ricky and Bobby Jr.

''Bobby was a good man, a great ballplayer,'' said Arizona manager Bob Brenly, who coached with Bonds on the Giants' staff for two seasons. ''I know how much that's been weighing on Barry's mind and the entire family. Hopefully, they can find some peace in this.''

Funeral arrangements are pending.

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.



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