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Designer to brand asterisk on ball; Hall of Fame to accept it

NEW YORK -- The ball Barry Bonds hit for his record-breaking
756th home run will be branded with an asterisk and sent to the
Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fashion designer Marc Ecko, who bought the ball in an online
auction, set up a Web site for fans to vote on the ball's fate, and
Wednesday announced the decision to brand it won out over the other
options -- sending it to Cooperstown unblemished or launching it
into space.

Ecko said he believed the vote to brand the ball showed people
thought "this was shrouded in a chapter of baseball history that
wasn't necessarily the clearest it could be."

Ecko, whom Bonds called "an idiot'' last week, had the winning
bid Sept. 15 in the online auction for the ball that Bonds hit Aug.
7 to break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. The final selling
price was $752,467, well above most predictions that assumed Bonds'
status as a lightning rod for the steroids debate in baseball would
depress the value.


The asterisk suggests that Bonds' record is tainted by alleged
steroid use. The slugger has denied knowingly using
performance-enhancing drugs. Fans brought signs with asterisks on
them to ballparks as he neared Aaron's hallowed mark.

Bonds publicist Rachael Vizcarra did not immediately respond to
an e-mail sent early Wednesday seeking comment about the ball's
fate.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was not a fan of the
decision.

"I disagree with that totally, because I don't think there
should be an asterisk on it," said Leyland, Bonds' first skipper
with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Leyland later agreed with a columnist, who said he thought the
Hall of Fame was disrespecting Bonds for accepting the ball with
the asterisk on it.

Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey said accepting the ball
did not mean the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., endorses the viewpoint
that Barry Bonds used drugs.

"This ball wouldn't be coming to Cooperstown if Marc hadn't
bought it from the fan who caught it and then let the fans have
their say," Petroskey told The Associated Press. "We're delighted
to have the ball. It's a historic piece of baseball history."

Hall of Fame officials and Ecko are discussing how to affix the
asterisk on the ball. It's not yet known when the ball will go on
display.


The San Francisco Giants announced Friday they will part with Bonds after this
season, the seven-time NL MVP's 15th in San Francisco and 22nd in
the majors.

Ecko, known for his pop culture pranks, said he bought the ball
and arranged to let the public decide its future online as a way to
hold a conversation about a classic American sport in the digital
world.

"This is obviously something that struck a chord with fans,"
Ecko said Wednesday in a phone interview with the AP.

Bonds broke the home run record with a shot into the
right-center field seats off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

Matt Murphy, a 21-year-old student and construction supervisor
from New York, emerged from a scuffle holding the ball. He said he
decided to sell it because he couldn't afford to pay the taxes
required to keep it.