The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER allows himself a brief subway ride down Memory Lane….by Brad Eastland, time traveler

July 16, 2012
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     The National League won the All-Star Game the other day.   Easily.   Just like they always do nowadays.   The mighty American League has now scored only two runs in the last three All-Star games combined.   The game was played in Kansas City.   And a player (Melky “the Melkman” Cabrera) from the San Francisco Giants (my favorite team) was named the game’s MVP.bobby-bonds

     In other words, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

     Because all this had already happened before.   The last time they played the All-Star Game in Kansas City was in 1973, almost 40 years ago.   The National League won that game too.   Easily.   Just like they always did back then.   And a player from the San Francisco Giants was named the game’s MVP.

     It sure took me back in time, I have to say.   That Giants star who was the all-star MVP in ’73 was my favorite baseball player, my hero from the time I was 12 years old till long after I graduated from college.

     His name was Bonds.

     No, not him.

     Y’see, the Bonds of 1973 was Bobby Bonds.   Barry’s father.   Bet some of you casual baseball fans didn’t even know that Barry had a dad who was also a major league player, huh?   And I bet you didn’t know that like his son, father Bobby was once just about, could be, kinda sorta, pretty much, well, was arguably the best player in the game.

     Who says so?

     Well, Reggie Jackson for one.   Mr. October himself once proclaimed Bobby Bonds the best player around.   Sparky Anderson for another.   The legendary manager of the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine, immediately after watching Bonds homer and double in the NL’s 7-1 annual drubbing of the junior circuit, told reporters that Bobby B was the best player “in our league”.   (Yeah, back then the two leagues really didn’t like each other.   It wasn’t the love-fest it is now.)

     In fact, right after the all-star game was over, the ebullient Anderson couldn’t wait to gush over the elder Bonds: I think Bobby Bonds is probably what everyone dreams about,” said the Reds’ folksy manager, who coached the National League in that ‘73 game.  He’s Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays.   I think he has the potential to be as great as all of them.   He has tremendous running speed, he has great power and he’s an outstanding outfielder.   He’s an outfielder like Clemente was, and he has a great arm.   I don’t think there’s anything really that Bobby Bonds doesn’t do on the baseball field.”


     And finally, none other than Henry Aaron—one of the game’s all-time greats, and the man whose career home run record Bobby’s kid later broke—thought the elder Bonds was the best player of his time.   In echoing Anderson’s post-game remarks, Hammerin’ Hank declared, “Bobby Bonds is probably the most complete player in the major leagues right now.”

     Double wow.

     And he was my guy.   My favorite player.   And, to my knowledge and in my little world, no one else’s.   I adopted him when I was 12, back in ’68, the day he became the first man in the 20th Century to hit a grand slam home run in his first major league game.   That was all I needed to see.

     The elder Bonds—despite Hank Aaron’s glowing remarks—was, in fact, probably not the most complete player in the game.   He only hit over .300 once, and struck out way too often.   However, he was indeed the game’s most dynamic, explosive talent; that much is certain.   Faster than even his fleet son would become, Bobby Bonds stole over 30 bases practically every year back then, and occasionally over 40 bases.   He was, as old Sparky said, a great outfielder, winning the “Gold Glove” award three times for fielding excellence, and his arm was much stronger than his son’s arm ever was.   And while Bobby was never the hitter Barry Bonds was, he did have more power….well, at least until Barry gulped enough steroids to inflate his arms into Incredible Hulk size and puff up his huge head into O.J. Simpson-esque cranial proportions.

     Amazing how the two Bondses are linked in baseball history, and not just by their name.   They are the only two players to ever hit over 300 home runs and steal over 400 bases in their careers.   Also, they are the only two men to ever hit over 30 homers and steal over 30 bases in a season five times.  

     Coincidence or DNA?

     But back to that ’73 all-star game.   What a wonderful memory!   My three favorite ballplayers of all time all played in that game.   Bonds’ double in the 7th inning was off of Nolan Ryan, my all-time favorite pitcher.   And playing in his 24th and final all-star game was my personal sports god, Willie Mays.   (He was 42 years old.   He struck out.)

     There was even a player from my high school in that game; Darrell Evans, the 3rd-baseman for the Atlanta Braves.   Evans went to Pasadena’s John Muir high in the mid-60s, me in the early 70s.   I didn’t know him, but I did know his younger brother Mike.  

     So to sum up, my three favorite all-time players were in that game, a guy from my old high school was in it, and it happened the year I graduated from high school.   The National League (for over 100 years and counting invariably the better, nobler league) won.   And Bonds, as in Bonds the elder, was named Most Valuable Player.   Any wonder why that was my favorite all-star game ever?   It was like they had decided to call it the Brad Eastland Memorial All-Star Game, and so thereby they dedicated it 100% to me….

     Plus, it was my favorite all-star game for one other very important reason.  The best reason of all.   I was young.   I was young.   I was young!   And that’s what made this year’s game so wonderful for me.   It reminded me of the ’73 game, and, by extension, reminded me of what it felt like to be young.   Again.   If only for three glorious hours….

     For in the end, isn’t that all we have left as we shuffle ever closer to that final subway stop?   Our memories?

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image003

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, a film buff, undiscovered literary savant, and a lover of All-Star games past and present.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack (and of triumph  and utter despair) entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   And then post your praise on Facebook.   For all this he thanks you…..









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