Bonds' ball likely not a home run with collectors

Updated: May 21, 2006, 12:54 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's a piece of baseball history that should have auctioneers and speculators salivating.

But after Barry Bonds matched Babe Ruth's home run mark Saturday, even the savviest collectors are shrugging at the value of the ball that will vault the San Francisco slugger into second place behind Hank Aaron with No. 715.

Mixed feelings about Bonds, the subject of steroids speculation for years and now the target of a federal perjury investigation, likely will lower the price to levels far below other high-profile hits.

"There is obviously a black cloud over this historic home run," said David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions in Laguna Hills, Calif., which specializes in sports memorabilia. "People are not scrambling after Barry Bonds jerseys and balls. Normally, with a historic event like this, we would see a lot more demand."

And Major League Baseball originally wasn"t even going to authenticate Bonds' home run balls with the traditional hologram reserved for historic hits, before reversing course to help avoid having multiple claims of ownership of the ball.

There was no doubt who grabbed No. 714. Bonds' homer Saturday in Oakland was caught on the fly by 19-year-old Tyler Snyder of Pleasanton. He quickly left the Coliseum with his souvenir.

"I hate that guy," Snyder told reporters before he was whisked away. "I don't really care for the guy."

The No. 715 ball is expected to fetch around $100,000 at auction -- if it goes that rout -- far less than the $500,000 some experts say it could have commanded without the controversy surrounding Bonds.

The estimate is based on the sale of Bonds' 700th home run ball, which went for just over $100,000, coupled with the temerity of some collectors concerned their investment will lose value if Bonds is proven to have used steroids, auctioneers said.

The recently released book "Game of Shadows" details steroid allegations against Bonds, and a grand jury is investigating whether he lied under oath when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Comic book icon Todd McFarlane, who paid $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1999 and just over $500,000 for Bonds' 73rd home run ball of the 2001 season, said he'll probably bid on No. 715, but he's lukewarm about the milestone.

McFarlane said the most he'd pay would be $70,000.

"Most of the stuff that I chase, I want number one," McFarlane said. "What happens when I walk into a room and say I have the second-best ball? The first question is, 'Well, where's the best one?'"

It's not all about Bonds' stats.

His brusque attitude also could weigh against the sale price, said Michael Heffner, president of the Lelands auction house.

"Collectors haven't written him off, but he's not on the same level as Babe Ruth," Heffner said. "Babe Ruth has already gone down in the history books as this lovable character. The perception of Barry Bonds is much different. The public views him as a bad guy who's not nice to his fans."

But a patient collector could make money if Bonds is not indicted and the ball spikes in value, said Doug Allen, president of Mastronet.com, an online sports auction site.

"Once the dust settles, people are going to realize he's one of the best to ever play the game," Allen said. "I truly believe that. This accomplishment will be incredible, but I don't think people can see that clearly right now."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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