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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

President Bobby Bonds

Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012, at 9:59 AM

"Bobby Lee Bonds (March 15, 1946-Aug. 23, 2003) was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball from 1968-81, primarily with the San Francisco Giants.

"Noted for his outstanding combination of power hitting and speed, he was the first player to have more than two seasons of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, doing so a record five times (the record was matched only by his son Barry), and was the first to accomplish the feat in both major leagues; he became the second player to hit 300 career home runs and steal 300 bases, joining Willie Mays."

Never met the man nor did I see Bobby play. All I know comes from far distant observations. Found myself, however, considering how allegorical his career was compared to being President of the United States.

It is fortunate for Bonds that his very name, "Bonds," was probably not the name of his African ancestors. Somewhere in history and slavery and anglicizing of names he came out with the surname of Bonds. He was thus fortune as no one ignorant of religion and faith would arbitrarily assume Bobby a follower of any particular religious leanings.

Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room -- as once was said, he was a "Negro" ballplayer. By the time Bobby got to the big leagues, 1968, race was no longer as big a barrier -- on the field. By then every team had accepted the fact of Negro players, and accommodations made for travel, hotels, etc. But, if a guy didn't quite live up to all the hype, well, "what can you expect?" Don't recall, either, a lot of folks hating a white player because he failed to homer or struck out. Those of us who lived through 1968, however, know there was a long way to go then and now.

Bobby was put into the impossible position faced by all Presidents, expectations well above and beyond reasonableness. When I first heard of Bobby he was being touted as the next Willie Mays. Willie was the most mythical all-around ballplayer to ever put on a big league uniform. Bonds came to the plate with a tag no one could live up to, with falling short of the myth deemed failure.

In 1980 heard a statement which over the years I have thought could be applied to many other people and situations, especially being President of the United States. When asked about Bobby's predisposition to strikeout the Cardinals General Manager replied to this effect: Strikeouts are part of the package you get when you buy into Bobby Bonds; but he hits enough homeruns to make the game exciting and the team a winner.

Bonds may not go down in history anywhere near Mays as a hero, but only a few hit 300-plus home runs. Some who get the same chance don't hit any. To have a winner you have to take the failures with the successes, and judge the man after he leaves the game. Take away the name, and the race thing, and the failures when individual hopes were high, and you get a better than average player with his share of successes and failures.

We expect the President to bat .1000, with an equal number of homers. And we've burned through about 46 Presidents in an effort to find one man who will always lead us to victory as we define victory any given week. Ain't no allegory going to make that happen.

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David L. Lewis
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