05/12/05 9:00 AM ET
Draft in '85 full of future stars
Pirates grabbed Bonds sixth; Big Unit went 36th to Expos
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
To say the draft that produced the likes of Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz not to mention the core of what would become the United States Olympic team, easily qualifies 1985 as perhaps the greatest single draft in the 40 years of the event's existence.
The Pirates grabbed the player many consider to be the greatest of all-time with the sixth pick overall, tabbing a skinny outfielder from Arizona State as their selection. You know the rest. The Giants, the team Bonds eventually wound up with after successfully starting a career with the Pirates, actually drafted him in the second round three years prior but college ball was in his plans.
As for four of the top players chosen that year, none were slouches. None, however, ever came close to doing what Bonds did on his road to becoming a member of the 700-club. The Brewers had the first pick and they grabbed B.J. Surhoff, a utility player from the University of North Carolina who had previously been drafted by the Yankees.
Surhoff, along with Will Clark, who was taken second by the Giants, Bobby Witt, who went third to Texas, Barry Larkin, chosen fourth by Cincinnati, and Chris Gywnn, taken 10th by Los Angeles all were part of Team USA.
Clark, a future teammate of Bonds' in San Francisco, went to the Giants after a successful run at Mississippi State. The Rangers chose Witt and he went on to win 142 games before calling it a career in 2001. Finally, the Reds chose Larkin, a hometown kid who would play his entire career in The Queen City.
Though several teams passed on Bonds -- the White Sox grabbed Kurt Brown with the fifth pick and he never reached the Major Leagues -- his slipping to sixth wasn't the only faux pas committed on draft day in '85. The Expos were able to wait until using the 36th pick to grab a lanky left-hander from the University of Southern California named Randy Johnson. Much like Bonds, you know the rest. Johnson was also drafted by the Braves in the fourth round in 1982 but chose school.
"That was a long time ago; I don't remember what I did last week," Johnson said. "I really don't remember much about the day. I know I was excited, finally about to do something I always dreamed about. As a second-round pick, I signed for $65,000, which was a lot at the time. That investment paid off for the Expos for one month in 1988.
"Getting drafted out of high school by Atlanta, my thinking, and probably the thinking of my parents, was that I'd go to college to get an education and also to learn more about baseball. At a place like USC, obviously I'd still get scouted. I didn't learn as much about baseball as I expected [at USC], but the experience was still worth it."
That Johnson lasted until late in the second round certainly seems silly in retrospect. Not nearly as silly, though, as the fact that Smoltz remained available until he was chosen in the 22nd round with the 574th pick by Detroit.
Another late selection that went unnoticed came in the 24th round when the Cubs tabbed first baseman Mark Grace with the 622nd pick. All Grace did was go on to have a stellar 16-year career in which he drove in more than 1,100 runs and posted a career average of .303.
Other notables drafted that went unsigned were the two-sport athletes of Bo Jackson and Brian Jordan. Jackson, who had already been drafted by the Yankees in 1982, was selected in the 20th round by California but chose to remain at Auburn. The following year, the Royals grabbed him in the fourth round. Jordan, meanwhile, was selected in the 20th round by Cleveland but waited to sign until 1988 when the Cards grabbed him in the first round.
Pitcher Jim Abbott was taken by the Blue Jays in the 36th round but went back into the draft and was taken three years later in the first round, eighth overall, by Toronto. And first baseman Tino Martinez was taken in the third round by the Red Sox in '85 but didn't sign until the Mariners grabbed him in the first round, 14th overall, in 1988.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. Tom Singer contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.