Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bonds HR ball ends up in the HOF

NEW YORK -- Now branded with an asterisk, the ball Barry Bonds launched for his record 756th home run nearly a year ago landed Tuesday night in the Hall of Fame.

The souvenir arrived in Cooperstown, N.Y., after a strange day of back-and-forth statements between its owner, fashion designer Marc Ecko, and the shrine.

"We are very happy to receive the baseball as a donation, and not as a loan," Hall spokesman Brad Horn said. "We look forward to adding this ball to our permanent collections."

A driver walked up the front steps of the Hall, handing over the ball and a letter from Ecko saying it was an unconditional donation. Horn said the ball will be displayed after the museum documents it -- that process usually takes weeks, rather than months.

Bonds broke Hank Aaron's career homer record on Aug. 7. Yet not since Boston first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz caught the last out of the 2004 World Series had a Hall-bound ball caused so much commotion.

Ecko paid $752,467 for the prize in an online auction in September. Soon after, he asked fans to vote in an Internet poll on what he should do with the ball.

The winner: Brand it with an asterisk, to reflect the steroid allegations surrounding Bonds, and give it to the Hall.

The ball indeed was marked, with the five-pronged asterisk dye-cut into the cowhide, from stitch-to-stitch where "Major League Baseball" is printed.

Bonds called Ecko an "idiot" when the designer announced plans to hold the vote. The slugger later said he would boycott the Hall if it displayed the ball with an asterisk.

After months of discussions, the Hall said earlier Tuesday that talks with Ecko had "unfortunately reached an impasse."

"The owner's previous commitment to unconditionally donate the baseball has changed to a loan. As a result, the Hall of Fame will not be able to accept the baseball," the Hall said.
Ecko later responded.

"I am surprised that the Hall issued a statement that said they would no longer accept the Barry Bonds' 756th home run baseball. We had been in communication with them just this morning and the Hall did not mention that they would change their position and no longer accept the ball," he said.

"Based on the Hall of Fame's previous statements that they would both accept and display the ball, the only open issue we were talking about was the Hall's recent indication of discomfort in displaying it and addressing the controversy surrounding the record."

Nearly all of the Hall's 35,000-plus artifacts were given on a permanent basis. The Hall does make exceptions, especially when it has nothing else to illustrate a story -- Willie Mays loaned the glove he used to make his famous, over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.

Bonds donated the batting helmets he wore when he hit his 755th and 756th home runs.

Bonds finished the season with 762 home runs. The San Francisco Giants did not offer him a contract for this year, and he hasn't gotten an offer to play for another team.