Former Giants’ Pitcher Offers Insider’s Appreciation Of Barry Bonds
John D'Acquisto knew Barry Bonds was destined for baseball greatness.
Although MLB Home Run King Barry Bonds didn't receive the minimum of 75% vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America in his 10th and final year on their hall of fame ballot, the 14 time all-star and two-time National League batting champion should get another crack at enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Bonds, who received 66.0% of BBWAA votes announced this past Tuesday, is eligible for the Today's Game Era Committee's vote this coming December. The ballot will be announced following the conclusion of the 2022 World Series.
For many, not having Bonds join this summer's class at the Clark Sports Center on Induction Sunday July 24, is a bitter pill to swallow. Bonds, who has been linked to using performance-enhancing drugs during his decorated 22 MLB seasons, didn't become the Hall's 340th member. This honor goes to former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Given his personal stats, included are 762 home runs, 2,935 hits, 514 stolen bases, and
2,558 walks (232 bases on ball in one season), it appears not if, but when, Bonds gets a plaque posted at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown.
However, what many younger fans of the game today forget, or haven't been educated to, Bonds seemed destined to shine on the diamond.
To some, the most famous, and successful father and son duo in MLB history are the Griffeys - Ken, Sr. and Ken, Jr. The later being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Class of 2016). For all their success, Barry's baseball superiority surpasses, along with his late dad Bobby Bonds, the Griffeys.
"He was extremely fast," says former San Francisco Giants' righty hurler John D'Acquisto of his 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 out of a San Diego high school as a first-round draft pick in 1970. From encounters during spring trainings, and when being called up to San Francisco as a 21-year-old in September 1973, D'Acquisto gravitated to the budding superstar and his young son.
"(Bobby Bonds) had Willie Mays as his teacher. During the '73 and '74 seasons, Bobby was the leader of our teams," recalled D'Acquisto during a recent phone conversation from his Arizona home. "He was quite a talent. As far as outfielders went, we had Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Ken Henderson, and Bobby in right field. And Bobby was a great leadoff guy."
During his 14 big league seasons, Bobby Bonds dominated at the top of the Giants line-up. He belted 35 leadoff home runs. With the Giants from '68-'74, Bonds, Sr. was the first player to record at least two seasons of 30 homers and 30 stolen bases. His 461 stolen bases, multiple all-star selections (including the '73 game's MVP), Bonds was among the most dominant players in either league.
Success in athletics ran in the Bonds family. Bobby's brother Robert was an NFL draft selection, and his sister Rosie was an American Olympic hurdler in the '64 games.
PEDs aside, Barry Bonds possessed the genes to be a force in athletics.
As a young pitcher with the Giants, D'Acquisto remembers clearly his pre-game companionship with the future home run king at Candlestick Park.
"I was "Uncle John" to "BB". That's what people who know Barry call him. He would be in the outfield with me during batting practice shagging balls; as my sidekick. I'd say to Barry, "You get one, then I'll get one."
Years later, when D'Acquisto long retired from his decade pitching in the National and American Leagues, the batting practice pals reunited during the 2016 season in Phoenix. Predictably, both men were emotional, when being brought back to a simpler time in their lives years ago.
"I saw Barry at the batting cage," remembers D'Acquisto when Bonds was the hitting coach that season for the Florida Marlins. " So, I went up to him and asked, "Hey, BB", remember in Candlestick Park shagging balls with John D'Acquisto? He did. I said, " I'm John D'Acquistro."
42 years later, and the guys were back within arms reach. D'Acquisto tells of Barry hugging him five times, excited to revisit his innocence.
"The little kid came out in him again. We talked about old times. I asked how his mom is. I went over stories about his dad. It was just a breath of fresh air for both of us. I could see the tears in his eyes. That was so special. It's what baseball is all about."
Like many fans of baseball, and specifically of Barry Bonds, D'Acquisto was hoping for the former Pittsburgh Pirate and Giant to have scored at least 75.0% of votes from the BBWAA this past week. D'Acquisto is hoping to take his interest in both Barry and his dad to the next level, by authoring a book about them. No stranger to writing, D'Acquisto's autobiography - Fastball John was published in 2016, which continues to receive critical reviews.
Teammates with the St. Lucie Legends in 1989, one of the eight original franchises that played in the Senior Professional Baseball Association, D'Acquisto and Bonds, Sr.'s relationship grew. But, D'Acquisto's association with anyone connected with his time as a San Francisco Giant remains special.
"Back in '71, I walked into the Giants' clubhouse at a 19-year-old, and lockered next to Willie Mays, right near the trainer's room, D'Acquisto explains. " I saw Juan Marichal walk in, and Bobby (Bonds), then Ken Henderson (his dad Joe Henderson was the scout that signed D'Acquisto). Gaylord Perry showed up, too. After the team workout, Bobby took a liking to me real quick. He told me what to do, and what not to do; treating me like a son. We became very close."
Five years watching Barry Bonds grow up, and Bobby Bonds dominate National League pitchers, D'Acquisto learned quickly he was in the presence of quality people; a superstar and a superstar-in waiting. Perhaps within months, finally, the Bonds name will be added to the Hall of Fame's roll call of 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 on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.