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Original Issue

Fighting Words

Barry Bonds fires back after an ex-slugger's book accuses him of a racist snub

Former Chicago White Sox outfielder and 1983 American League Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle says he recalls every detail of his 10-year major league career--every play, every practical joke and, as Barry Bonds found out, every personal slight. In his recent book, Tales from the White Sox Dugout, cowritten with former Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bob Logan, Kittle writes of a 1992 encounter with Bonds in the Giants' clubhouse at Wrigley Field. Kittle, who had retired the previous year, asked Bonds to sign some of Bonds's game-worn jerseys, which Kittle had bought and planned to auction for Indiana Sports Charities, the cancer foundation he started in 1989. "Bonds stood up," Kittle writes, "looked me in the eye and said, 'I don't sign for white people.'"

Bonds returned fire last Thursday. "Who is Kittle?" said Bonds, who had been updating reporters on the rehabilitation of his surgically repaired right knee. "How long did he play? He played in our league?" Bonds noted that his ex-wife is white and that two of his three kids are half-Caucasian. The story "insult[ed] my children," Bonds said--though he never explicitly denied that the run-in occurred. "Tell [Kittle] he's an idiot." SI found numerous photos of Bonds signing autographs for white fans; in addition, Bonds didn't join the Giants until 1993.

Kittle writes that the exchange was witnessed by former Giants third baseman Matt Williams and then manager Dusty Baker, who gave Kittle an autographed ball and said, "Aw, Kitty, he's just got that s----- attitude again." (Baker and Williams declined to comment.) Kittle told SI that he may have gotten the date wrong, but says, "I'm not backing down. If he can't spend five seconds to sign a jersey for a charity, then he can go jump in a lake."

Kittle now spends most of his time working for his charity. He says he put the Bonds anecdote in his book to give a full account of the personalities--the nice and the nasty--he encountered in baseball. "I want the public to know he's a jerk to other players just as he is to fans," he says.






Bonds (in 1997) challenged Kittle to a fight for quoting him as saying, "I don't sign for white people."