Bobby Bonds, who works part-time for the brokerage firm of Dean Witter Reynolds and is a player-manager for the St. Lucie Legends in the Senior League, is sitting in the living room of his home in San Carlos, Calif., sipping a cup of coffee and looking at a picture of Barry as a two-year-old. In the snapshot, Barry is wearing a uniform and holding a plastic bat in his hands. Even as a kid, Bobby says, Barry could hit a Wiffle ball so hard it could break glass. "You know what I'm proudest of?" asks the 44-year-old Bobby. "That now I'm known as Barry Bonds's father."
In the early '70s, Bobby Bonds was considered by some to be the most complete player in the game, possessed of a rare combination of righthanded power and long-legged speed. But for every positive thing he accomplished, there seemed to be a downside. Despite balling leadoff often, he drove in a total of 1,024 runs in his 14-year career. But he also set a record for strikeouts in a season (189 in 1970) and wound up wearing seven different uniforms. Twice he was the recipient of the Good Guy award from a Giants booster club. And once he was arrested for drunk driving, to which he pleaded "no contest" and paid a $360 fine. Three times he made the All-Star team, and once a teammate said Bonds never stole a clutch base and wouldn't hit a cutoff man if he were King Kong.
During his days as the heir to Mays, Bobby considered the comparison an honor. In the '50s, Mays hit the 30-30 mark twice, and Bonds then topped him, doing it a record five times, beginning in 1969. But what Bobby could never fathom was the insatiability of the baseball public, to whom his feats were never enough. "What is potential?" Bobby asks. "Why do I have to live up to anybody's expectations? If you use that word, then nobody in this world has been a success, because he has failed somebody's expectations."
The eldest of Bobby and Pat Bonds's three sons, Barry is very close to his father, accepting his counsel on life in general and baseball in particular. And he never ends a phone conversation with his parents without saying, "I love you." "Barry has a lot of Bobby in him, as far as baseball goes," Pat says. "Barry has goals, and that was Bobby, too." The two hold the record for most homers by a father and son—332 by Bobby, 95 by Barry—and confidence reverberates from one generation to the other. Says the son, "Tell me something I can't do, and I'll show you I can do it." And the father: "I would never say I was better than everybody else. But there was nothing on the field that anybody could do that I couldn't."
But there are differences between the two as well. Barry is not the good-time guy his father was. Aside from golf and baseball, Barry's passion is taking care of his wife, Susann, and six-month-old son, Nikolai. He derives joy from playing with kids, but not from defeating them. "When I played with my dad he was such a competitor, he couldn't lose," Barry recalls. "When Brian [Wright's 14-year-old son] hits a drive that's better than mine, I compliment him, and he feels good about it. So then he wants to play with me, and he feels he's a better golfer."
As a child, Bonds was saddened by the negativism that swirled around his dad. He became angry at the expectations of others then, and is defiantly hardened to them now. "No one gives my dad credit for what he did, and they want to put me in the same category," Bonds says. "He did 30-30 five times, and they say he never became the ballplayer he should have become. Ain't nobody else done 30-30 five times. Nobody. Zero. So I don't care whether they like me or they don't like me. I don't care."
The Giants drafted Barry out of Serra High in San Mateo, Calif., in the second round of the '82 draft, but Bobby felt their $75,000 offer was some $5,000 short of acceptable. Besides, Barry wanted to go to college. He chose Arizona State, and under batting coach Jeff Pentland, learned to use his strength to hit 23 home runs his junior year.
Though Wright says Sun Devil head coach Jim Brock put enormous pressure on Barry, the two became very close. "I liked the hell out of Barry Bonds," Brock says. "Unfortunately, I never saw a teammate care about him. Part of it would be his being rude, inconsiderate and self-centered. He bragged about the money he turned down, and he popped off about his dad. I don't think he ever figured out what to-do to get people to like him."
The Pirates chose Bonds with the sixth pick of the '85 free-agent draft, and less than a year later he was their starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter. (Since then, he has spent time batting fifth because of his all-fields power, and been shifted to left because of his less than powerful arm.) When the Mets came to town his first week in the big leagues, the press asked Bonds how he felt about facing Dwight Gooden. "He's going to have to face me," Bonds retorted. That day he went 1 for 2 with a single and two walks, and has hit .258 off Gooden since.
Bonds says there is a method to his brashness, that it is his means of self-motivation. "To me, when people say I have an attitude problem, it gives me an edge," he says. "It makes me mad, so I play better." His stiff-arm demeanor has created some curious scenes. When Bonds was in San Francisco for a recent game, a local TV station asked him for an interview. Bonds said no, and refused repeated requests. But a few minutes later he wandered onto the field, consented to the interview and garrulously answered all questions.