Barry Bonds struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers more than perhaps anyone who has ever played in MLB. There never was a better example of that than the night of May 28, 1998, in a game between the Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by two runs, Bonds stepped to the plate and was intentionally walked, with Arizona electing to eat a run instead of potentially allowing the slugger to end the game with a grand slam.
Bonds joined New York Mets outfielder Dom Smith on Instagram Live on Sunday evening and explained how he reacted to the remarkable decision.
“I was shocked at first," Bonds told Smith. "I looked in the dugout going, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ It’s the first time. I’d never seen it happen before, and I was feeling really good at the time. You know, I was pretty locked in at that time, but I had a great hitter behind me in Brent Mayne. He was a contact hitter.
"Your job in baseball is to keep the line moving, right? When you make that statement that I lick my chops, I don’t really lick my chops that much. I just want to keep the line moving. I don’t want to be the guy to make that last out. That comes with age and experience. You learn to say, ‘You know what? Take my hit, move on, and allow your teammate to do his job.’
"Me walking with the bases loaded, at first, I was shocked, but basically, when I got to first, I was a cheerleader for my team.”
San Francisco Giants
It ended up working out for the Diamondbacks, as the two-out intentional walk was followed up by a lineout from Mayne to end the game with an 8-7 win for Arizona.
Buck Showalter was the Diamondbacks' manager in 1998, and explained to NBC Sports Bay Area's Jessica Kleinschmidt in October why he chose to walk Bonds in that spot.
“In that case, and I was looking at it and I could see if you did the math, where [Bonds] would fall in the batting order,” Showalter said. “You have to understand, he didn’t start that game -- he came in as a pinch hitter earlier. Jeff Kent, who was having a typical MVP year was not hitting behind him. And I love Brent Mayne, good major league player, but he wasn’t Jeff Kent and he wasn’t Barry Bonds so you had to pick your poison.”
Mayne slashed .288/.375/.392 over his two seasons with the Giants in 1998 and 1999, but was not near the level of dangerous hitter that Bonds or Jeff Kent were.
It ended up being a wise decision from Showalter, but also defines just how terrified pitchers and managers were when No. 25 stepped into the batter's box. He led the MLB in intentional walks 12 times over his MLB career, and teams were willing to leverage runs in crucial late-game situations instead of face the possibility of Bonds crushing one over the fence.