Ten years ago, Bill Bordley just said no.
The All-CIF standout at Bishop Montgomery and All-Pac-10 pitcher at USC was that most coveted of baseball properties in 1978--a left-hander whose fastball was consistently in the 94- to 95-m.p.h. range.
But as the prize prospect of the coming January, 1979, major league draft, Bordley decided to play by his own rules, a risky ploy in a situation where the draftee has little leverage.
It was the start of a bumpy baseball saga that ended quietly several years ago, with Bordley answering another unusual calling.
In the spring of 1978, Bordley was merely a USC sophomore with a 26-2 two-year record and a faithful following of slavering pro scouts. By that fall he was also a young man with what he saw as family responsibilities: His father, Art, was facing open-heart surgery, and a brother, Art Jr., was in critical condition after an auto accident. As the nation's hottest amateur pitcher, Bordley correctly saw himself as in a position to command a hefty signing bonus that would help ease the family's mounting medical bills.
So the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder dropped out of USC and declared himself available for the coming winter draft. There was one rub: Bordley wanted to stay close to home, and the Cincinnati Reds had the first pick. The Angels had the third pick. So Bordley wrote letters to the teams with the top picks, and even met with representatives of the Reds. When he told them he wanted $200,000 and an immediate major league contract, Bordley says, the Reds--who were stripping their star-studded roster--blanched and said they weren't interested anyway. The Angels were ready to accommodate him.
Come draft day, the Reds selected Bordley. And Bordley said no way. The two sides met. Bordley said he would go back to USC before signing with Cincinnati. He said their reply was a nasty "Have fun in school," and they walked out.
But as Bordley was prepared to enroll at USC again, baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called and told him to await an announcement. A few days later Kuhn, mindful of Bordley's special circumstances, voided the Reds' selection, fined the Angels for tampering and told Bordley to list five teams he would be willing to play for. Those names were placed in a hat, and the winner was the San Francisco Giants.
And they lived happily every after . . . except that Bordley pitched in a grand total of 8 games for the Giants, had a career record of 2-3, and retired in 1983 after a series of elbow surgeries that left his fastball a memory.
With Bordley at the ripe old age of 25, the only thing he had really ever wanted to do was taken away, and an unlimited future was suddenly the past.
But Bordley, unlike many of his peers, decided life wasn't over just because his fastball was laid to rest.
He went back to USC, got top grades on the way to a business finance degree and began looking for a new career. For two years he helped his old coach, Rod Dedeaux, at USC but wouldn't take a salary that Dedeaux offered. "When I went back to SC, I felt they'd been very good to me," Bordley said. "Rod was a super guy. He came into my life when I was 18, and it was a very positive association. He's a special person."
And, Bordley added, although he enjoyed coaching, it was time to discover life after baseball.
With his finance degree in hand, Bordley tried to conjure up a job that wouldn't tie him down. "I was really dreading the 8-to-5 routine," he said. So he came up with a plan. A secret plan. A Secret Service plan, to be specific.
He applied to the Secret Service, then took a job with a financial firm in the San Francisco area while the government checked him out. That took the better part of two years--actually, longer than it took Bordley to jump from USC to the major leagues. But last March Bordley got the job that suits him--to a T, in fact. He became a T-Man.
He's in Washington, D.C., now for training and will be there through the presidential election. Afterward, he'll be assigned to the Secret Service's Los Angeles office, where his duties will include Treasury forgery investigations and protection of retired President Reagan and visiting dignitaries.
"A friend's brother was in it and enjoyed it," Bordley said of his initial interest in the Secret Service. "The investigations, things like that, were attractive. You're out in the field; you're not behind a desk all the time."
Bordley said his name is still recognized when he is in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Most other places, he's another name in the Baseball Encyclopedia, another coulda-been-a-contenduh. He has no need to see "Bordley 1, Free Agent Draft 0" on his resume.