Thrift recalls seeing Bonds mature - fast

Then-Pirates GM sent him to majors after a year


World Series

October 23, 2002|By Joe Christensen and Peter Schmuck | Joe Christensen and Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift has a unique perspective watching Barry Bonds in his first World Series.

Thrift took over as Pittsburgh Pirates general manager in 1985, and he had to decide whether Bonds was ready for the big leagues.

The Pirates made Bonds the sixth overall pick in the 1985 draft out of Arizona State University, and less than a year later, Bonds was tearing up the Pacific Coast League for Triple-A Hawaii.

Thrift flew to Phoenix to watch Hawaii play, and Bonds put on an impressive display during batting practice.

"He hit four or five balls over the right-field fence and said, `What do you think of that?' " Thrift recalled yesterday. "I said, `That was good, but now let's see you hit one over the left-field fence, or left-center.' He went out and hit another four or five over the left-field fence.

"I made up my mind that night I was going to take him to the big leagues. In the seventh inning, I told the manager, Tommy Sandt, to take him out of the game, and I took [Bonds] with me to Pittsburgh."

Sixteen years and 613 home runs later, Bonds finally made it to the World Series.

Asked if Bonds is the best player of all time, Thrift said: "It's a toss-up between him and his godfather [Willie Mays]. I played in the service with Willie. He could do so many things, and so can Barry. [Bonds] has tremendous focus. His concentration is amazing. And he always said he wanted to be the greatest player."

A Bonds rarity

Anaheim pitcher Ramon Ortiz accomplished a rare feat in the third inning, fanning Bonds on three pitches. The last time Bonds struck out on three pitches was July 5 against the Diamondbacks' Curt Schilling.

The Angels continued to be careful with Bonds. In the first inning, they walked him intentionally to load the bases. The Giants had runners at the corners with one out, but manager Mike Scioscia wanted nothing to do with Bonds. The move paid off, as the Giants managed only one run.

Bonds drew two walks last night, giving him 20 for the postseason, matching Gary Sheffield's record from 1997.

Juiced ball?

Balls were hopping out of Edison International Field with such regularity that several players re-ignited the long-simmering juiced ball controversy, but the proof will be in Pacific Bell Park.

The Giants' new bayside stadium doesn't look that big, but the cool temperatures and stiff crosswinds that come with the waterfront location have made it one of the toughest places in baseball to hit the ball out - for all but one very notable slugger.

The Giants' Game 4 starter, Kirk Rueter, said yesterday that he's happy to be making his World Series debut at home.

"Yeah, the last game, it was crazy," he said. "Balls were definitely going out of there pretty quick. But this is a little better place. The weather will be a little different than it was down in Anaheim, so I think you just have to try and go out and make your quality pitches and go from there."

Roberto Clemente Award

Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome was introduced before the game as this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to a player who exemplifies the ideal of the Pirates' Hall of Famer.

Thome, who led the Indians with 52 home runs and 118 RBIs, was quizzed afterward, but gave no indication what he planned to do after becoming eligible for free agency. "We're just waiting to see what's going to happen," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from this award. That will all be talked about after the World Series is over."

There has been speculation that the Orioles will make an attempt to sign Thome next month, but club officials are hesitant to make a major move in the free-agent market without some guarantee that the team's revenues will not be diluted by a second team in the region.

Familiar face

Former Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich has been a regular presence with the Angels in the postseason. Grich left the Orioles in the first wave of free agency and was part of the Angels teams that reached the playoffs in 1979, '82 and '86.

He has spent much of the past 25 years affiliated with the Angels, but said he still has an emotional bond to the Orioles.

"That's the team that originally signed me," Grich said. "Without the Baltimore Orioles, I don't get to the big leagues, so I have very strong emotions toward them."

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