Griffey ball brouhaha continues to rage

Updated: June 13, 2008, 12:08 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Justin Kimball says he never wanted 15 minutes of this kind of fame.

The 25-year-old aspiring musician bought a ticket -- Section 130, Row 8, Seat 23 -- for the Florida Marlins' game with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night, hoping for that once-in-a-lifetime brush with history. He was in the right-field seats, envisioning that Ken Griffey Jr., one of his boyhood idols, would hit career home run No. 600 into his waiting hands.

Wojciechowski on Griffey

Ken Griffey Jr. would like his 600th home run ball. It's up to 'Joe', the Marlins fan who caught it, to do the right thing. Story

Kimball says the miracle happened.

His attorneys have nine witnesses saying the same.

But the Marlins say his recollection isn't true, and video replays don't conclusively support the claim, either.

So here we go again: The rights to yet another historic baseball -- like the one Barry Bonds hit for his 73rd home run in 2001 and Bonds' 762nd career homer last year -- will likely be decided in a courtroom.

It's a bizarre tale of a singer and his wool hat, a man in a Sergio Mitre replica jersey who only goes by "Joe," grainy replays that seem to prove nothing, along with claims of foul, thievery and dishonesty.

"It's all really weird," Kimball said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It makes me sick to my stomach."

Kimball has filed suit in Miami-Dade County court, alleging, among other things, that Joe -- identified as "John Doe, an individual aka Joe and any party in control or possession of [the] Ken Griffey Jr. 600th home run baseball" -- committed civil theft and civil battery against him.

Oh, and as if this all wasn't enough drama, the story got more odd Thursday: Kimball's side also says people -- they weren't identified -- at the stadium informed their office that the infamous Joe struck again Wednesday night and wrestled Dan Uggla's game-ending grand slam away from a woman whose hands were on that ball, too.

"This guy is apparently a magnet," said Robert Zarco, one of the attorneys representing Kimball for free.

Marlins president David Samson said Joe, who Samson said has authorized him to speak on his behalf, did not catch the Uggla ball.

But whether Joe caught it or not, Uggla left the stadium with his grand slam ball Wednesday.

Griffey -- who wants his 600th -- wasn't so lucky Monday, and Kimball wishes that wasn't the case.

"My client really wants to get Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball, his baseball, for free," Zarco said. "This isn't about money. I do not want any indication at all that there is any kind of desire or attempt that I'm a greedy lawyer looking for money. I am not."

Kimball says he isn't, either.

"It'd be dirty money," Kimball said.

The Miami-Dade court did not rule on Kimball's request for a temporary restraining order Thursday. The court could, in theory, block Joe from doing anything with the ball, but Samson said the man is not deterred by the legal issue.

"He did not indicate he is in any way concerned," Samson said. "When you're right and telling the truth, it's hard to be concerned."

Samson knows Joe, whom he identified as a longtime season ticket-holder, from various team events. Samson has spoken with Joe at least three times about the man's options, most recently Thursday, when Samson provided the man with a frame-by-frame tape that purportedly shows Joe catching the ball.

Samson added that he wants the ball "somehow, some way to get back to Ken Griffey" and that his involvement is merely to help out a season ticket-holder. Earlier this week, Samson said anyone who claims Joe did not catch the ball is "misinformed and dishonest," an assertion that didn't sit well with Kimball.

"Calling me dishonest has really been eating at me," Kimball said. "There's a lot of people that saw me catch the ball. ... I wish this all would go away. I didn't want this. I just want it to be over with."

Kimball said he grew up in Minnesota, a huge Twins fan. He remembers going to the Metrodome to see the Seattle Mariners, back when that lineup featured Griffey, Jay Buhner, Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson. And as a third-grader, he said he bought a book from his school's reading club about baseball -- one with Griffey on the cover.

He has some Kirby Puckett memorabilia in his collection, some Dan Marino autographs and even a signed Mickey Mantle ball.

"But none of that is associated with any sort of milestone," Kimball said. "My intention with the ball is just to get it back to Griffey. I don't want any money. I don't want anything. And I don't understand how so much animosity can come toward me from my favorite baseball team, when all I want is what's best for the game."

Kimball cannot explain why video doesn't support his claim, that the ball was in his wool cap and Joe ripped it away, scratching his arms and legs in an ensuing scrum. He simply says that the video doesn't prove anything said by either side, calling it "all inconclusive."

His original court filing on Wednesday -- it was slightly amended Thursday -- asked a court to bar whomever has the 600th homer ball from selling it until the ownership issue can be resolved. Memorabilia experts say the ball could fetch $50,000 to $100,000 at auction.

"In reality, the ball should go to the guy who hit it, not the guy who caught it," Zarco said. "Shouldn't it?"


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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