A Bronx native, Bobby was originally signed by the Pirates but they lost him to the White Sox in the Rule Five Draft. The Pirates were eager to reacquire their rising young star so they sent hard-throwing hurler Jose DeLeon to Chicago to get Bobby back. It was a wise move on the Buccos part. Bonilla established himself the following year in 1987 when he hit an even .300 for the Pirates splitting time between third base and right field with Jim Morrison and R.J. Reynolds.
Although a .300 hitter in ’87, Bobby-Bo enjoyed his breakout year in 1988. Named to the first of six All-Star squads that year, Bonilla won the Silver Slugger Award for third basemen. He was the only Major League third baseman to drive in 100 runs. But his 32 errors at third base led the league. Skipper Jim Leyland stuck with Bonilla as his third baseman in 1989 and he led NL hot corner custodians in base hits. Bobby was the only National League player to post 30 doubles, ten triples and 20 homeruns. However, his error total climbed up to a league high 35, so the Pirates moved him to the pasture in 1990.
Able to forget about his woes as an infielder, Bobby-Bo had his finest run-producing season in 1990. He finished second in the NL with 120 RBI and also finished second with 112 runs scored. An All-Star and Silver Slugger winner again, he finished as teammate Barry Bonds’ runner-up in MVP voting as the duo carried Pittsburgh to the postseason. The Reds kept Bonilla’s bat silent and defeated the Pirates in the NLCS.
The Pirates returned to the NLCS in ’91 with Bobby pacing the NL in doubles and leading his right field position peers in runs scored, hits and walks. But just like they did in 1990, the Bucs were ousted in the NLCS again. After the season Bobby filed for free agency and returned home to play for the Mets. After a disastrous first year in New York, Bonilla got back on track in 1993 when he clubbed a career high 34 homeruns. On fire in 1995, the Mets made a deadline deal with the Orioles, sending Bobby to Baltimore for two young outfielders named Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford. Bobby returned to the postseason with the Orioles in ’96 but the Birds fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Bobby tested the free agent waters again and signed with the Florida Marlins for the 1997 season. He clubbed 39 doubles for the Marlins in ’97 but early in 1998 season he was involved in a blockbuster fire-sale trade that sent him, future Hall of Fame outfielder Gary Sheffield, outfielder Jim Eisenreich and catcher Charles Johnson to the Dodgers for future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza (who they quickly traded) and third baseman Todd Ziele. The trade wasn’t beneficial for Bobby who struggled out west.
After the ’98 season he was traded to the Mets for fireman Mel Rojas and had his worst season in 1999 when he hit .160 for the Mets. When his career looked over, Bobby Cox gave him a shot with his Braves in 2000 and he rebounded as a part-timer with Atlanta. He played one final year with the Cardinals in 2001 before calling it a career.
G 2,113/R 1,084/H 2,010/2B 408/3B 61/HR 287/RBI 1,173/BB 912/SO 1,204/SB 45/BA .279/SA .472/OBP .358