No shame in seeking high bid for historic ball

On Baseball

September 13, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Still trying to figure out the basis for all that moral outrage about the value of Mark McGwire's record-breaking home run ball. Sounds a lot more like hypocrisy from this angle.

McGwire makes about $8 million per year to hit a baseball. The fans pay that salary through their ticket purchases and -- indirectly -- by watching games on television and buying the products of the advertisers who buy time. That's a function of free-market economics.

The fans are granted a publicly announced contract after they pass through the turnstiles. They are "welcome to keep any ball hit into the stands as a souvenir of the game."

That means that the ball -- whether it be a relatively worthless foul ball or a historic home run -- belongs to whoever retrieves it. It was certainly honorable of the fans who caught historic McGwire homers to return them to him, but it certainly would not have been morally reprehensible to sell those balls to collectors.

You might recall that in 1994, the players went on strike and forced the cancellation of the World Series to defend their own economic interests. The best interests of the fans was never an issue, so why now should they be shamed into acting in the best interests of the sport instead of the best economic interests of their families?

The ball McGwire hit for No. 62 is nestled safely in an exhibit at the Hall of Fame, and that's great. That's where that ball belongs, but if some guy living in a trailer in Missouri had caught it and sold it to the highest bidder for $1 million, that would have been great, too.

That would have been the American way.

And another thing

Lest anyone get too caught up in the supposed spontaneity of Tuesday night's celebration, McGwire did hoist his 10-year-old son in the air moments after his historic home run, look into a camera and shout, "We're going to Disney World."

Presumably, he got paid a healthy sum for that endorsement -- probably a lot more than that groundskeeper got for bringing back the home run ball.

Straight talk

San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds has never been accused of mincing words, as illustrated by this diatribe against reporters who were critical of his performance earlier this season.

"I've never had an off-year," Bonds said. "I've never had a bad season since I was with the San Francisco Giants. I've been doing it for years, consistently, every year. There isn't a person in this locker room who can carry my jock strap. And I'm not saying that to be derogatory.

"I don't care what anyone says. I can go down the list here. I've done it consistently in the '90s, since I've been with the Giants' organization. But it's always something negative. If I don't hit 50 homers, it's an off-year. No one in here has hit more homers than I have in any given year, except Matt [Williams] in '94. He had [43] homers. I still had 37.

"No one on this team has stolen more bases than me in one year. Only a couple of times has someone had more RBIs than I have, had a better slugging percentage, a better on-base percentage. And there haven't been too many people who have had a higher average than me."

Bonds isn't very tactful, but he's right about one thing. He has been the top run producer of the '90s. He has driven in 100 or more runs in eight of the last nine seasons (the only exception: the strike-shortened 1994 season). He has more RBIs (976) than any other player in the '90s, ranks first in slugging percentage (.594) and walks (1,063), and is third in home runs (322).

Big opportunity

Former Orioles assistant GM Kevin Malone has been working without a contract this year, which explains why the club really couldn't do anything to keep him from jumping ship to become general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Presumably, owner Peter Angelos would not have stood in his way regardless, since it was a tremendous opportunity and the Orioles owner wasn't yet ready to make a final decision on a successor to departing Pat Gillick.

Malone deserves the chance to run his own show. He did a good job in his short tenure as GM of the Montreal Expos and was a loyal lieutenant to Gillick the past three years in Baltimore.

Triple threat

Former Orioles prospect Dave Dellucci has set a major-league record in his first full season. He has 11 triples for the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, the most ever by a player on a first-year expansion team. He also has a chance to become the first rookie to lead the National League in that department since Ray Lankford in 1991.

30-30 vision

Braves outfielder Andruw Jones already is the youngest player ever to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season, and he still has time to join the exclusive 30-30 club. Through Friday, he had 29 homers and 25 steals with 14 games left to play.

That would be quite an achievement, considering the way he tested manager Bobby Cox's patience with his lackadaisical play in the outfield earlier this season.

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