The brevity of Bordley’s career — derailed by arm injuries that robbed him of velocity and often swelled his elbow to the size of a grapefruit — was especially disappointing for a former prospect who went 26-2 over the course of two seasons at Southern California, who signed for a then-record $242,000 in 1979 (“I was kind of the [Stephen] Strasburg of the day — but obviously, for a lot less money,” he said), and who was once touted by Sports Illustrated as the next Sandy Koufax.
“He was always so focused and matter-of-fact with his pitching,” said Houston Astros Manager Brad Mills, who played with Bordley on an Alaskan collegiate summer league team and competed against him in the Pacific-10 at Arizona. “[That] seemed to make him more mature than everyone else and at the time helped him be so dominant.”
A fateful conversation
One day during Bordley’s brief pitching career, the Giants were playing in New York against the Mets when Vice President George H.W. Bush decided to show up at Shea Stadium. On the disabled list at the time, Bordley had nothing better to do than to strike up a conversation with some Secret Service agents accompanying the president.
That fateful conversation led to a friendship, which led to a foot-in-the-door once Bordley walked away from baseball in 1983 — which led, eventually, to his second career. Bordley applied to the Secret Service, and while waiting on what turned into a 2 1
2-year vetting and approval process, he went back to USC and earned a master’s degree in finance. The Secret Service hired him in 1988.
In the 20 years he spent as an agent, Bordley traveled to 85 countries. He met the pope and the queen of England. He did stints as an attaché to Germany and Russia, at one point finding himself speaking German with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a state dinner.
“My German was better than my Russian, and Putin spoke German well from his KGB days,” Bordley said. “I never dreamed during my playing days that one day I’d be speaking to the Russian president in German.”
It was also in Russia that Bordley met the woman who would become his wife, Maria. They have a 7-year-old son, Will, and have settled in Connecticut.
“It was a fascinating time, a fascinating place,” Bordley said of his time in Moscow. “You saw the interaction of the two governments. That was probably the culmination of my Secret Service career.”
Of course, once anyone finds out that Bordley served on Clinton’s protective detail between 1995 and 2000, all they want to ask about is Monica Lewinsky. Understandably, he answers such questions sheepishly and guardedly. The Secret Service, as an entity, fought the government’s efforts to compel its agents to testify but lost the fight.
“I would’ve done anything in my power not to testify,” Bordley said. “But it happened. I just had to tell the truth as to what I saw and what I didn’t see. Obviously, I’m not proud of it.”
These days, instead of would-be presidential assassins (and paramours), or cold war spooks and invisible threats to the union, Bordley’s biggest worries are would-be stadium bombers and kidnappers in the hills of Venezuela.
But for peace-of-mind purposes, let’s pretend none of that exists.