Walter Franklin Bond (October 19, 1937 – September 14, 1967) was an American professional baseball player who appeared in six Major League Baseball seasons between 1960 and 1967 for the Cleveland Indians, Houston Colt .45s/Astros and Minnesota Twins. He played the last five seasons of his 11-year professional career after being diagnosed with leukemia while serving in the United States Army in 1962. The disease finally took Bond's life in the closing weeks of the 1967 baseball season — a year during which he had made the Twins' roster coming out of spring training.
The native of Denmark, Tennessee, attended Lane College; he stood 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) tall and weighed 228 pounds (103 kg), threw right-handed and batted left-handed. With his imposing size, he was an effective power hitter who also batted for average (.299) during his minor league career. In 1962, the year of his diagnosis, Bond batted .320 in 132 games for the Salt Lake City Bees of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Then, in a 12-game September stint with the Indians, Bond hit six home runs in only 50 at bats, drove in 17 runs, batted .380 and slugged .800. Yet he could not make the 1963 Indians roster and spent that campaign in Triple-A.
On December 19, 1963, he was acquired by Houston. The Colt .45s' general manager, Paul Richards, was aware of Bond's illness, but the team doctor examined Bond and determined that the leukemia was in remission. Bond then turned in his best Major League season as the starting first baseman for the 1964 Colt .45s, leading Houston in home runs (20) and runs batted in (85), and appearing in 148 games. The following year, Bond held onto his starting job, but his production slumped with the team's move into the Astrodome; some teammates later speculated that his leukemia had recurred that season, affecting his play. Sent to the Twins just before the 1966 season, he returned to Triple-A and batted .316 with the Denver Bears, earning an invitation to spring training for 1967.
Bond made the team and batted .313 in part-time duty during the season's first month. But the Twins released him on May 15, and although Bond caught on with the Jacksonville Suns, his declining health forced him to the sidelines after only three games. He entered a Houston hospital for treatment, but died there at age 29. Said his physician, Dr. Hatch Cummings: "He showed the strength of character and will that only champions possess. It was an exhibition of courage, and in the best tradition of baseball."
By Dean Hanley
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