A newspaperman with nothing much on his mind decided the California Angels needed extraterrestial help to end a mystifying slump. So he interviewed a local "witch" and she promised to chase away evil spirits hounding these fallen Angels.
Before you could say Prince of Darkness, the Angels beat the Baltimore Orioles three straight times, Frank Tanana won his first in a month and Bobby Bonds hit home runs in five straight games. Naturally, then, Bonds was asked what he thinks of the witch's work.
Bonds doesn't think it's funny. He thinks it's blasphemous. "That's voodoo," the Angel right want anything to do with it. I believe in God. That's devil worship. I read the Bible, not what some witch says."
If the California Angeles are to rise in the American League West Division standings, the ascension most likely will come on the wings of Tanana and Nolan Ryan, two of baseball's best pitchers, and on the blessed bat of Bobby Lee Bonds, who in eight full seasons has done what no other player ever did.
He has hit 30 home runs and stolen 30 bases in a season three times. That symmetry of numbers is so rare, such a measure of strength and speed, that Willie Mays achieved it only twice. Hank Aaron, Tommy Harper and Ken Williams did it once. No one else ever did it. With 26 homers and 25 steals so far this season. Bonds has in reach an unprecedented 40-40 year. (In 1973, he had 39 homers, 43 steals.)
"I will tell you in September whether I have a chance or not," Bonds said. "If I have, oh, 32 home runs by then, yes, it will enter my mind. But if I have 29, there's no way I'm going to hit 11 in a month."
A player of unprecedented accomplishment, tall, handsome, articulate. Bonds ought to be famous today; perhaps not so famous as to have a candy bar named for him, but maybe appreciated enough to make the All-Star team. In his ninth year, he's been in only three All-Star games. Here is a star shining in secret, and he says he knows why.
"I'm not the type individual who cares if my name ever is in the newspaper," Bonds said. "Some players just have to be in the paper every day. Not me. I'm not out to satisfy the world. i just want to satisfy myself. I don't subscribe to the paper. i don't buy. I very rarely read it. And half the things I read. I don't believe, because I read things I'm supposed to have said and I didn't say them."
Neither does Bonds think much of fans.
"Fans can put more pressure on you than anybody," he said. "I hear the cheers, and I hear the boos, but I don't pay any attention to them. I don't let them bother me one way or the other."
Bonds does like Bonds.
"I feel I'm as good as any player in the game," he said. "I can hit home runs with anybody, and I can steal bases with runs with anybody. to me, Rod Carew is the best hitter in the world, but I hit 30 home runs and he doesn't."
Bonds stopped. For a man who doesn't read the newspaper, Bonds quickly realized that what he's just said, set in type, would seem a slight to Carew. So Bonds repaired the damaged by saying. "I'd like to hit 380, like Rod. I love Rod Carew. He's genuine, warm, honest man. If it came to him hitting 400 or me hitting 40 home runs, i'd get bigger thrill out of Rod Carew hitting 400."
In 1968, brought up at midseason by the San Francisco Giants, Bonds, then 22, hit a bases loaded home run his third time at bat. "That put me in a hole forever," Bonds said, meaning that expectations soon overwhelmed possibilities, however wonderful those possibilities were.
In six full season with the giants, first playing alongside Willie Mays and then replacing him, Bonds hit 275 and averaged 29 home runs, 41 stolen bases.
"But from that grand-slam on, if I didn't hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases, 95 percent of the fans would say I had a bad year," said Bonds, who never pays attention to the fans. "If anybody else hit 29 and stole 30, it'd be a fantastic year."
Bonds loves Mays. "Outside of my mother and father, he has been the biggest influence on my life. He took me under his wing. He spent a lot of his own time to work with mw. I owe the man a lot."
Was there pressure to succeed Mays? "Some people are ruined that way," Bonds said. "When they're compared to an individual, they think they are that individual. Well, I was compared to Willie Mays. "The next Willie Mays." No way. I'd have had to think I was the greatest ballplayer ever - which Willie Mays is, Nope, not me.
Traded in 1975 to the New York Yankees for Bobby Murcer, Bonds hit 270 with 32 homers, 30 steals and was the world's happiest man when the Yankees traded him to the Angels that winter. "New York is insane. I'll never go back there. Its a zoo. A jungle. Too big for me, too fast. I'm a California boy."
A broken hand in spring training limited Bonds to 99 games last year (265, 10 homers, 30 steals) but now he's back at full strength an says the Angels can win it all. "We just need to pick up five or six more games," he said. "Then we'd be four or five behind in September and anything can happen." Even without the witch.