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.
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. We're delighted to have the ball. It's a historic piece of baseball history.
Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey
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.
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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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