Bobby Bonilla was a 6’3”, 210 lb. third baseman from the Bronx. Born on February 23rd, 1963, the switch-hitting slugger was initially signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1981.
Bonilla played the remainder of the 1981 campaign and the following season with the GCL Pirates in the Gulf Coast League, slashing .225/.278/.322/.600, with a mere five home runs and 33 RBI over 259 plate appearances covering 69 contests.
1983 would see Bonilla graduate to the single-A level, with the Alexandria Dukes in the Carolina League, and hit .256/.357/.387/.744 over a league-lead-tying (with Lenny Dykstra) 136 games, with 11 round-trippers, 59 RBI, and 28 stolen bases.
After a promotion in 1984 to join the Nashau Pirates in the double-A Eastern League (136 games, .264/.331/.393/.724, 11 homers, 71 RBI), Bonilla regressed a step in 1985 and got into 39 games with the single-A Prince William Pirates in the Carolina League (.262/.340/.377/.717, three home runs, 11 RBI).
After the 1985 season, the Chicago White Sox picked Bonilla in the annual rule 5 draft, which meant that Bonilla had to spend the entire season on Chicago’s major league roster or be returned to the Pirates. Good news for Bonilla. Bonilla was passable as a first baseman/outfielder for the Sox, hitting .269/.361/.355/.715 over 75 games, and he didn’t get sent back to the minors, but he did nevertheless make his way back to Pittsburgh. the Sox traded him to the Pirates on July 23rd for Jose DeLeon.
Bonilla spent six seasons with the Pirates, making the all-star team four times and earning three Silver Slugger Awards. Over 843 games, he slashed .284/.357/.481/.838, with 114 round trippers and 500 RBI. He finished 16th in the MVP award race in 1989, then finished second and third in the following two seasons. Granted free agency after the 1991 campaign, Bonilla joined the New York Mets.
Bonilla played three and a half seasons for the Mets (515 games, .270/.356/.495/.851, 95 dingers, 295 RBI, two more all-star games) before joining the Baltimore Orioles on July 28th, 1995 via trade, with a PTBNL (Jimmy Williams) for Damon Buford and Alex Ochoa.
After a year and a half with the O’s (220 games, .300/.371/.506/.877, 38 home runs, 162 RBI), Bonilla again exercised his free agency, and inked a deal to play for the Florida Marlins on November 22nd, 1996.
For Bonilla’s first and only full season in Florida, 1997, the then 34-year-old appeared in a team-second 153 games, and hit a team-high .297, had a team-second .378 OBP and a team-second .468 slugging percentage, with 17 homers and a team-second 96 RBI. The 92-70 Marlins went 5-4 when he did not play. He had multiple hits in 46 games, including three or more in nine of those contests.
On April 28th, in a 12-9 win against the San Diego Padres, Bonilla walked and scored in the first, doubled in the third, hit a leadoff single in the fifth, singled and scored in the sixth, and added another run after doubling in the eighth.
On May 13th, Bonilla singled in the second, got onto base via HBP in the third, hit a grand slam in the fourth, and added a leadoff single in the ninth as the Marlins trounced the Atlanta Braves, 11-5.
On September 16th, in a 9-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies, Bonilla hit an RBI-single in the first, hit a double and scored in the fourth, and hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
Bonilla went four-for-12 with a homer and three RBI in the Marlins’ first round three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, then six-for-23 with four RBI in Florida’s six-game series win over the Atlanta Braves after the regular season. He went six-for-29 with a round-tripper and three RBI over Florida’s seven-game series win against the Cleveland Indians.
1998 would see Bonilla hit .278/.355/.454/.808 through 28 games before the Marlins traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers with Manuel Barrios, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. Bonilla played with the Dodgers for the rest of the season (72 games, .237/.315/.360/.675) before rejoining the Mets for 60 games in 1999 (.160/.277/.303/.579) (see below). He later played with the Braves (114 games, .255/.356/.397/.754) and the St. Louis Cardinals (93 games, .213/.308/.339/.647).
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at an all-star first baseman who played in parts of five seasons with the Marlins.