Having a ball

ROCH AROUND THE CLOCK

Baseball from Bonds' 756th home run finally lands, asterisk and all, in Hall

On a souvenir for Cooperstown

July 03, 2008|By ROCH KUBATKO

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and the man who possesses Barry Bonds' record-setting 756th home run ball had reached an impasse. And then they hadn't. By the grace of God and a deliveryman, fans who make the yearly trek to Cooperstown, N.Y., won't be denied the chance to stare at a $12 baseball.

Could any of us really live in a world where that sort of thing might have happened?

Fashion designer Marc Ecko bought the souvenir for more than $752,467 last September. He apparently had promised to donate it to the Hall "unconditionally," until deciding later that he'd rather lend it, which sounds an awful lot like a condition.

Heck, if I'm laying out that kind of dough, I'm not letting the ball out of my sight. I'm sleeping on top of the display case.

Initially, the Hall of Fame refused to go along with those terms and released a statement that read, in part, "Should the owner choose to unconditionally donate the ball to the museum at a future date, we would be delighted and, of course, accept his offer."

He did, and they did, thanks to a driver who unexpectedly appeared on the front steps of the Hall on Tuesday night, holding the ball and a letter from Ecko offering his unconditional donation, if not his love.

Does it really matter?

Barry Bonds already had passed along the batting helmets he wore last August when he hit the home runs that allowed him to tie and break Hank Aaron's record, perhaps the most hallowed in sports - right after Roger Clemens' historic 27th retirement.

I could spend minutes upon minutes looking at those things. I'm a sucker for headgear. But a baseball?

Without having actually seen it, I'm guessing it's round, mostly white with a few smudges and has red stitches.

It's going to look like any other game-used ball that you've seen, except it probably has that cool infra-red marking so we know it's authentic - the same kind once used to commemorate the hit that pushed Geronimo Gil's average above .200.

And it's not as if Bonds will be sitting there holding the ball and telling stories.

Ecko hasn't taught it do any neat tricks, like rolling over, though it did fetch $752,467.

Ecko set up a Web site after purchasing the ball and let people vote on whether he should give it to the Hall, stamp an asterisk on it in protest of Bonds' tainting the record with his alleged steroid use (as opposed to being a world-class jerk, which would have required a different symbol), or shooting it into space on a rocket ship.

The fourth option - hiding it in one of Don Zimmer's jowls - didn't make the final cut.

The majority of participants wanted the asterisk, the Hall agreed to accept it after much deliberation and hand-wringing, and then Ecko almost ruined the whole thing.

But at least he still had a $752,467 baseball.

Nobody could take that away from him - at least not unconditionally.

Having finally relinquished the rawhide, he still holds the distinction of being called an "idiot" by Bonds, which makes me wonder if I'd rather stand in a long line for the chance to look at Ecko.

Bonds has threatened to boycott the Hall if it displays the ball with the asterisk.

Meanwhile, baseball has boycotted Bonds, who still can't find a job.

Think of it as the circle of life.

Thanks to Ecko, Bonds no longer is free to walk through those doors anytime he wishes.

The offensive ball is there, taunting him with its six-pronged insult.

But there are plenty of others for him to enjoy, should he change his mind.

All of them round and all of them a little smudged, much like the reputation of the man who hit No. 756.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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