Former Giants pitcher offers insider appreciation of Barry Bonds
John D’Acquisto knew Barry Bonds was destined for baseball greatness.
Although MLB Home Run King Barry Bonds did not receive the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s minimum 75% vote in his 10th and final year in their Hall of Fame ballot, the 14-times all -star and two-time National League batting champion should get another chance to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
The bonds, which received 66.0% of the BBWAA votes announced last Tuesday, are eligible for vote by Today’s Game Era committee next December. The ballot will be announced after the conclusion of the 2022 World Series.
For many, not having Bonds join this summer’s class at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 24, is a bitter pill to swallow. Bonds, who has been linked to performance-enhancing drug use during his 22 decorated MLB seasons, did not become the 340th Hall member. That honor goes to former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Considering his personal stats, he has 762 home runs, 2,935 hits, 514 stolen bases and
2,558 walks (232 balls in a season), it seems not if, but when, Bonds gets a plaque posted at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown.
However, what many young fans of the game today either forget or haven’t been educated about, Bonds seemed destined to shine on the diamond.
For some, the most famous and successful father and son duo in MLB history are the Griffeys – Ken, Sr. and Ken, Jr. The latter being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Class of 2016 ). Despite all their success, Barry’s baseball superiority surpasses, along with his late father Bobby Bonds, the Griffeys.
“He was extremely quick,” former San Francisco Giants left-handed pitcher John D’Acquisto said of teammate Bobby Bonds. “He was as close to a five-tool player as I’ve ever seen. And Bobby was a great defensive player.”
D’Acquisto’s relationship with Bobby and Barry Bonds dates back to his first signing with the Giants from a San Diego high school as the first draft pick in 1970. Meetings during spring training and when he was called in San Francisco as the 21-year-old in September 1973, D’Acquisto gravitated to the budding superstar and his young son.
“(Bobby Bonds) had Willie Mays as a teacher. During the 1973 and 1974 seasons, Bobby was the leader of our teams,” D’Acquisto recalled in a recent phone conversation from his home in Arizona. “He was quite a talent. As far as outfielders go, we had Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Ken Henderson and Bobby in right field. And Bobby was a great point guard.”
In his 14 major league seasons, Bobby Bonds dominated at the top of the Giants’ roster. He ran 35 starting circuits. With the Giants from 1968 to 1974, Bonds, Sr. was the first player to record at least two seasons of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. His 461 stolen bases, his multiple all-star selections (including the 1973 game MVP), Bonds was among the most dominant players in both leagues.
Success in athletics was in the Bonds family. Bobby’s brother Robert was an NFL draft pick and his sister Rosie was an American Olympic hurdler in the 1964 games.
PEDs aside, Barry Bonds had the genes to be a force in athletics.
As a young pitcher with the Giants, D’Acquisto vividly remembers his pre-game company with the future king of the league at Candlestick Park.
“I was ‘Uncle John’ at ‘BB’. That’s what people who know Barry call him. He’d be in the outfield with me during batting practice fucking balls; like my sidekick. I’d say to Barry, “You got one, so I’ll take one.”
Years later, when D’Acquisto was long retired from his decade of pitching in the National and American Leagues, the batting practice buddies reunited during the 2016 season in Phoenix. Predictably, both men were emotional when they were taken back to a simpler time in their lives years ago.
“I saw Barry at the batting cage,” D’Acquisto recalled when Bonds was the batting coach that season for the Florida Marlins. “So I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, BB’, remember in Candlestick Park fucking balls with John D’Acquisto? He did. I said, ” I am John D’Acquistro.”
42 years later, and the guys were back at hand. D’Acquisto recounts that Barry hugged him five times, delighted to see his innocence again.
“The little kid came back to him. We talked about the good old days. I asked how his mum was doing. I told stories about his dad. It was just a breath of fresh air for both of us. I could see the tears in his eyes. It was so special. That’s what baseball is about.”
Like many baseball fans, and Barry Bonds in particular, D’Acquisto hoped the former pirate and Pittsburgh giant got at least 75.0% of the BBWAA votes last week. D’Acquisto hopes to take his interest in Barry and his father to the next level by writing a book about them. No stranger to writing, D’Acquisto – Fastball John’s autobiography was released in 2016, which continues to receive critical acclaim.
Teammates of the St. Lucie Legends in 1989, one of the original eight franchises that played in the Senior Professional Baseball Association, D’Acquisto and Bonds, Sr., the relationship grew. But, D’Acquisto’s association with anyone connected to his time as a San Francisco giant remains special.
“In 1971, I walked into the Giants clubhouse as a 19-year-old kid, and locked myself in next to Willie Mays, right next to the coaches’ room,” D’Acquisto explains. seen entering Juan Marichal and Bobby (Bonds), then Ken Henderson (his father Joe Henderson was the scout who signed D’Acquisto). Gaylord Perry also came. After team practice, Bobby liked me very quickly. He told me what to do and what not to do; treat me like a son. We have become very close.”
During five years of watching Barry Bonds grow and Bobby Bonds dominate National League pitching, D’Acquisto soon learned that he was in the presence of quality people; a superstar and a superstar in waiting. Perhaps in a few months, finally, the Bonds name will be added to the roll call of Hall of Fame baseball immortality. Count on D’Acquisto to lead the applause.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio and the web since the 1980s. His columns are featured weekly on WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted by email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
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