The amazing Josh Hamilton and the word ‘crack’ |

The amazing Josh Hamilton and the word ‘crack’

When I was growing up, I heard a lot of drugs tossed around in sentences ” coke, pot, acid, you name it ” but none provoked the same kind of dead-end connotation as crack. You smoked crack, I came to learn, you were probably in deep, deep trouble in life.

Which is why Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton’s pending all-star start for the American League (he’s on pace to hit .312 with 38 homers and 160 RBIs) is a story unto itself. One that’s been told plenty thus far this season, but with good reason.

Hamilton wasn’t just a tryer-outer. He was a crackhead, point blank.

“I did it so much it was like smoking cigarettes,” he told USA Today in 2006, when he launched his improbable comeback.

He’d been given nearly $4 million in 1999 as the first overall pick in the draft. He pretty much spent it all on drugs. Four million on drugs in seven years. Think about that.

The thing is, drugs don’t take your talent away, they only make it useless. So when Hamilton decided to reinvent himself, he had options.

People say he is the most gifted player to come along in decades. He whips his bat from the left side of the plate like he is swinging a twig, throws the ball like it has jet fuel inside it.

Hamilton’s signing bonus in 1999 was $3.96 million. This year he is making $396,000. In other words, he lost a zero somewhere along the way. You can bet it won’t be long before he finds it.

I haven’t seen him play in person yet, but when I do, I expect he will throw his wrists at a 95 mph fastball like he always does, and when he hits it, I expect it will go, “Crack!” …

Lest we overlook, Spain’s run to the European soccer championship was not only unexpected, it was dominating. The Spaniards, who beat Germany 1-0 for the title Sunday on a magnificent goal from El Nino ” Liverpool striker Fernando Torres ” outscored their opponents 12-3 and finished Euro 2008 undefeated. …

Tennis fan or not, you have to be rooting for Venus and Serena Williams to continue playing well and ultimately meet for the Wimbledon championship at the end of the week. They have won six of the past eight All England titles between them, with Serena beating Venus in the finals in 2002 and ’03.

Someday they will ditch the tour entirely and move on, but until that happens, let us not take for granted a very rare kind of rivalry. …

Oh, and speaking of Venus, she set a Wimbledon record Saturday with a 127 mph serve and now owns the top serve speed in the history of each of the Grand Slams. That’s nasty. Plain and simple. …

Is this what winning with the Cubs has done to Lou Piniella ” it takes him until June 29 to earn his first ejection of the season? Sweet Lou broke his slump Sunday against the Windy City rival White Sox, which were already on their way to sweeping the Cubs, just as the Cubs did to them at Wrigley the week before. …

Headline of the Week comes from, where it was listed as one of the “most popular features” last Friday: “Wie posts a quintuple bogey.”

I must admit that I’m all for Michelle Wie’s misfortune attracting its share of cheers, since I believe she talks the talk way too much for how little she walks the walk (she still hasn’t won a pro tournament). Must’ve been a sight to see, Wie needing seven shots to finish the final 30 yards of the hole. …

In parting, the way the Georgia media covered the passing of Uga VI, the bulldog that served as mascot for the University of Georgia, was scary. You would’ve thought a president died. Behold the Associated Press writer’s lead:

ATHENS, Ga. ” Uga VI, the bulldog that represented the University of Georgia during two Southeastern Conference football championships, died from congestive heart failure at his home in Savannah, the dog’s owner said Saturday.

At 65 pounds, Uga VI was the largest of the English bulldogs that have represented the school. University officials said the football team also had the winningest record under his nearly 10-year tenure at 87-27. Uga was known for stalking the sidelines in a shirt with a ‘G’ on it. During hot football games, Uga would sometimes take a break on a bag of ice.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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