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Another home run battle brewing &mdash this one over the ball

The Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. follows through his swing for his 600th career home run in the first inning against the Florida Marlins. The Reds defeated the Marlins, 9-4, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida, Monday, June 9, 2008. (Joe Rimkus...
The Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. follows through his swing for his 600th career home run in the first inning against the Florida Marlins. The Reds defeated the Marlins, 9-4, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida, Monday, June 9, 2008. (Joe Rimkus...

A treasured baseball that could be worth $100,000 is adding new meaning to "I got it."

When Ken Griffey Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds hit his 600th home run into the bleacher seats at Dolphin Stadium on Monday, it set off an ownership dispute — and a negotiating session.

The ball is in the possession of a longtime Florida Marlins fan who the team will identify only as "Joe."

Another fan says the ball is rightfully his. Griffey wants it, too.

Television replays show "Joe," wearing a replica of the jersey worn by Marlins pitcher Sergio Mitre, raising his glove in the air after apparently making the catch. Marlins President David Samson said "Joe" then took another ball out of his pocket and used it as a decoy in order to make his getaway.

"He maneuvered the other ball under the stands so he could quietly and quickly remove himself from the area," Samson said. "People were scrumming for a batting practice ball. He smiled and walked up the aisle."

The Marlins say the replays show "Joe" — a season-ticket holder since 1993 — made a clean catch with his glove.

"It's Joe's ball, and there's no discussion," Samson said. "We looked at the video. He caught the ball on the fly, in his glove, and immediately left the area."

After the ball was authenticated by Major League Baseball, the Reds started trying to barter for the memento to give it to Griffey, who became the sixth major-leaguer to reach the 600 home run plateau. So far, "Joe" has refused to give it up.

Samson said he spoke with Griffey after the game and with "Joe" on Tuesday to try to broker a deal. He plans to talk to "Joe" again, "to try to talk through what made the most sense for him."

"His desire would be, I guess, to do what's best for him and his family," Samson said. "He respects Ken Griffey."

As for the other fan, Justin Kimball, 25, of Miami says the ball was snatched from his possession, and he has enlisted the help of a lawyer to try to prove it. On Wednesday, they asked a Miami-Dade Circuit Court for a temporary restaining order to prevent "Joe" from selling the ball.

"At this point, we're trying to find out who the rightful owner of the ball is and trying to get to the bottom of this," said Kimball's attorney, Ariel Saban.

Kimball's play-by-play, delivered through Saban: He caught the ball in his cap, and then "Joe" wrestled it away and fled.

Marlins right fielder Jeremy Hermida said he "couldn't tell" who caught the ball after it sailed over his head and into the seats. Reliever Justin Miller, who was in the bullpen, said he initially thought that a man with blond hair and wearing a black shirt — Kimball — made the grab.

"I thought the blond kid got it," Miller said. "We all thought that."

After watching the replay, the relievers agreed with the conclusion that "Joe" made a clean catch.

"It went in his glove, and the glove hit [Kimball's] cap," said closer Kevin Gregg.

Experts said the ball could be worth a bundle.

"We feel like Griffey's 600th baseball at auction would bring, conservatively, $50,000 to $100,000," said David Kohler, president and chief executive officer of SCP Auctions, which has sold off several of the milestone blasts hit by baseball's all-time home run king, Barry Bonds.

The highest-priced home run baseball ever sold at auction, $3 million, was the 70th home run ball hit by Mark McGwire in 1998. Bonds' 756th home run ball, which broke Hank Aaron's record, went for $752,467 at auction.

Before bids are taken on Griffey's homer, if it gets to that point, Saban said he wants to make sure the ball winds up in the proper hands. Saban said he was seated in a nearby section of the outfield seats from where Griffey's homer descended.

"Everybody just flew everybody out of the way," Saban said.

This wouldn't be the first ownership dispute involving a historic home-run ball. Two men went to court to decide ownership of the ball Bonds hit for his 73rd homer of the 2001 season. The judge in that case ruled that the ball be auctioned and the two men split the proceeds.

"People know what these things are worth and are willing to do pretty much anything to get one," said Rich Mueller, managing editor of Sports Collectors Daily.

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