Bobby Bonds was supping at the Pink Pony restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. with his good friend and ex-teammate, Hal Lanier, and his former employer with the San Francisco Giants, Chub Feeney, now the president of the National League. This was one of those lazy, warms days of spring, and Bonds, who had experienced a trying if ultimately successful 1973 season, was at his ease, seemingly free of past cares. He stretched his long legs and cheerfully joined a discussion of his early days in the Giant farm system.
"I thought I'd never make it up to the big club," he said, nodding at Feeney, who was the team's vice-president in those days. Bonds speaks softly, easily, his casual manner disguising a personality that is far from serene. "The Giants had so many outfielders. It seemed like every time I thought I was ready somebody like Chub here would tell me I wasn't. The worst of it was, they were right and I was wrong. I wasn't ready then."
"The trouble with you, Bobby," said Lanier, "is that not even you know how good you really are." Lanier, a capable infielder but a chronically weak hitter, was released by the Yankees after last season. The son of the former National League pitcher and minor league manager, Max Lanier, he had been futilely applying for jobs at the various Arizona spring training camps for more than two weeks. At 31 he was confronted with the chilling prospect of becoming a has-been before his time. Players of Bonds' raw natural ability are a continuing source of wonder to him.
"I remember when my father had Bobby down in Lexington, North Carolina," said Lanier. "I was with the Giants then, but I would talk to Dad all the time on the phone. So one day we're talking and he tells me he's got somebody down there I wouldn't believe. 'The guy can hit, huh?' I ask him.
'A ton,' he says.
'Can he run?'
'He doesn't run, he flies.'
'Has he got an arm?'
'Like a cannon.'
'Has he got power?'