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First of all, congrats on hitting your 700th home run this weekend. I don't believe you'll read this, mainly because I doubt you zip over to Scorecard Daily first thing on Mondays to catch up with The Links, but if you do happen to stumble upon this article, nice work.
I don't expect you to remember me, but we met once before, back in 1987. You were in your second year with the Pirates. I was 13 years old and really into collecting baseball cards. My friend Todd and I grabbed all our Pirates cards and went down to the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta to get some signatures. I had this great card that had you and Bobby Bonilla together on the front, and when Bobby Bo came down to check out of the hotel, he graciously signed it.
And then you appeared, one of the last players to check out. I asked you, "Mr. Bonds, could I please have your autograph?"
You looked me in the eyes and replied, "No." And then you walked past me and out onto the team bus. No explanation, no excuses, just, "No."
I figured I'd just caught you on a bad day. You just shot me down and sauntered past, giving me a look like I'd intentionally walked you with the bases empty. The funny thing is, I wanted to like you. The Pirates were on TV all the time in Atlanta, between TBS, WWOR and WGN, so I'd always settle in to watch you and Bonilla, Doug Drabek and Andy Van Slyke, Mike Lavalliere, even Rafael Belliard. You were emerging as one of the best young players in baseball, with an ability to hit for power or steal bases (68 in your first two seasons). You were fun to watch.
Then you went to San Francisco and became a different player. As a Giant, you've been the ultimate power hitter, never blasting fewer than 33 home runs in a season -- after topping out at 33 homers in 1990 with Pittsburgh. In your seven seasons with the Pirates, you only batted above .300 twice. Since becoming a Giant, you've batted over .300 eight of your 11 previous seasons, and I'm guessing your current .372 average will hold up this year. Not to mention that you have 701 home runs over your career, a number only two other people in MLB history have accumulated.
Impressive numbers, yes, and yet you still don't seem to get the attention you deserve. Few magazine covers, no Gatorade commercials, no presenting the Top Ten list on Letterman. Last week, your manager, Felipe Alou, said he hoped your 700th home run would generate some respect for you: "I surely hope so. Some of the great things that this man does would be finally and truly recognized."
The thing is, people do recognize your greatness -- there's a reason you keep getting voted to the All-Star team, you know. We recognize your ability to put the bat on the ball, to turn on even the fastest of fastballs, your unparalleled concentration at the plate.
People just don't trust you. It has something to do with the perception that you have used performance-enhancing drugs.
Hey, hey, hey, calm down. We know, you've always said that you don't use steroids, that your body has visibly morphed over the last decade due to hard work in the weight room. That is perfectly believable.
It's tough to believe you, however, when you're constantly being connected to this dirty BALCO swirl. It's a big game of "he said, they said," and it seems the collective power of "they" has outweighed the singular voice of "he."
Belated Quote Of The Week
"That was just instinct. Kind of like running from the cops." -- Marquis Weeks, University of Virginia tailback, after returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown two weeks ago against North Carolina.
Game Of The Week
Here's another longtime favorite from the SLAM offices. Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio brings the beautiful game to the Internet.
Inevitable News Of The Week
Best wishes from everyone here at Scorecard Daily to Britney Spears and her new husband, Kevin Federline, who looks like a middle reliever. According to Entertainment Tonight, the couple celebrated this special day in front of a crowd of 30 people, who all wore sweatsuits -- the men with "Pimps" stitched across their backs. After the ceremony, the entire congregation partied to tunes from a boombox. Britney has been married twice in the past nine months and is now the stepmother of two children that Federline had with a supporting actress from Moesha. I'm sorry, but this stuff is just awesome.
The Missing Link Of The Week
Last week we linked to a story about a dog that was walking on its hind legs. Well, more and more dogs are acting like they're human, and we're all over it. A pooch in Oklahoma started a fire in an apartment complex when it tried to heat up a pizza. Then, a dog in Florida saved an entire litter of puppies from a vengeful owner who was planning to shoot them all by shooting the man instead. Finally, in Canada a dog jacked a pick-up truck and was spotted driving around the town of Whitehorse. One of these days you'll log onto SI.com and find that my dog has taken my job. Come to think of it, her stuff might be more interesting.
Get Your Education Of The Week
Now we know why Byron Leftwich moved on to the NFL instead of going into web programming. Here's a link to the homepage Leftwich created while in school at Marshall. In related news, here's a site by a kid named Dave who is in the fourth grade.
NBA Sensation Of The Week
A 51-year-old Egyptian who stands 7-foot-6 was discovered living alone in the hills of south of Cairo with only his goats. Mohammed Hussein Heikal says he moved to the country after he "became a figure of fun in the towns and villages" because of his size. The good news is that Chad Ford devoted a three-part Insider series to him and currently has Heikal going sixth in his 2005 NBA Mock Draft.
Supersize Us Of The Week
The Olsen Twins have signed on as spokespersons for McDonald's Happy Meals in France. But is it really a happy meal if you throw it up afterwards?
Miss Understood Of The Week
Congratulations to Deidre Downs, a lovely young lady from Alabama who walked away with the Miss America title over the weekend. Surprisingly, she rocked a two-piece evening gown, shocking pageant judges Rip Taylor, the Maloof brothers and Brett Somers. For unknown reasons, Downs was later arrested, though she gave the press a thumbs-up on her way to the clink.
The Week Ahead
The Amazing Race -- The two-hour season finale of the best reality show on TV airs on Tuesday night. Will Christie finally snap and kill Colin? Will the bowling Moms pull out a surprise win? Will Dick Vermiel cry? Find out Tuesday on CBS!
The Dirty Birds
Since everyone in the world is sleeping on my Falcons, I'm assigning them the final spot in this column each week. After their lackluster preseason, everyone wrote them off. Except me. They went to 2-0 yesterday after pounding the favored Rams, 34-17. Michael Vick remains the most exciting player in the NFL, going 14-of-19 for 179 yards and a TD and adding 109 yards rushing. According to Falcons fullback Justin Griffith, "He did some things today, we were on the sideline with our mouths open." Word.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com. He aged an entire decade while watching the epic Bengals/Dolphins match-up on Sunday night.