Bobby Bonds was one of baseball's most exciting and spectacular players.
Many thought that he was going to be the next Willie Mays, but not even Bobby's son could match the great Willie.
Bonds (the father) could hit, steal bases, lead off games with home runs and run down most fly balls.
The New York Yankees had finished second in 1974, a mere two games behind the Baltimore Orioles. Owner George Steinbrenner thought that Bobby Bonds would put the Yankees over the top in 1975.
Mr. Steinbrenner sent favorite Bobby Murcer to the San Francisco Giants for Bobby Bonds.
In his only season with the Yankees, Bonds hit .270 with 32 home runs, 85 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 47 attempts. The Yankees finished a distant third, 12 games behind the Boston Red Sox.
Gabe Paul, who, unlike Mr. Steinbrenner, was a baseball man, realized that major changes were necessary if the Yankees were to contend in 1976.
On December 11, 1975, Paul engineered two of the greatest trades in Yankees' history.
Paul sent Bonds packing to the California Angels in exchange for center fielder Mickey Rivers and right-hander Ed Figueroa. Most fans were upset. Rivers and Figueroa lacked Bonds' star power, but they were just what the Yankees needed.
Rivers was a solid defense player who had a weak throwing arm. He was probably faster than Bonds, but he was not a power hitter. Rivers had hit only one home run, but he had stolen 70 bases. Paul was changing the Yankees.
Figueroa was coming off a season in which he had won 16 games. His 2.91 ERA was the fifth best in the league.
The Yankees had wanted left-hander Frank Tanana, not Figueroa, but Angels' general manager Harry Dalton refused to part with Tanana.
Gabe Paul was satisfied with Figueroa and told reporters "He beat the Boston Red Sox three times without losing."
Paul's second trade, this one with the Pittsburgh Pirates, resulted in obtaining the services of young second baseman Willie Randolph, who went on the become one of the best of all the Yankees' second basemen.
The Yankees also received clubhouse lawyer and right-handed pitcher Dock Ellis, who once pitched a perfect game and later admitted that he had accomplished it while under the influence of LSD and left-hander Ken Brett, who probably could hit better than he could pitch.
The Pirates received right-hander George "Doc" Medich.
In one day, Gabe Paul strengthened the Yankees immensely. Rivers, Randolph and Figueroa would contribute greatly to winning the 1976 pennant as well as the 1977 and 1978 World Championships, although Willie was hurt and didn't play in the 1978 Series.
Paul traded Bonds and Medich for pitching, defense and speed.
He realized long ago that some power and offense are a must, but pitching and defense make champions.
Yanks Send Bonds to Angels for Pair And Medich to Pirates for 3 Players: Yanks Trade Bonds, Medich by JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Dec 1975: p.49.
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