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Friday, January 07, 2005

Auction the Ball for Charity

There's a new baseball scandal brewing. No, it's not about steroids or about team's taking their share of the luxury taxes that the Yankees pay and plowing the money into the bank accounts of the owners (as opposed to spending that money on players). Not a scandal of that sort, and, perhaps, it's not a scandal. Okay, it's a controversy.

About a baseball.

And not any baseball to be exact, but the baseball that made the last out in the 2004 World Series that enabled the Boston Red Sox to clinch their first World Series title in 86 years.

You see, BoSox backup 1B Doug Mientkiewicz caught it, and he wants to keep it. He says it constitutes his retirement, and an MLB spokesperson said that the ball belongs to the 1B.

Not so fast, say the Red Sox, who think the ball is theirs. I defer to the Sports Law Blog for a critical analysis of property rights in baseballs caught on the field, but while Mientkiewicz wants it for his reasons, the BoSox want to put the ball into a BoSox museum of sorts. Or at least that's the plan.

Because for too many years, the only ball that the BoSox fans were left wondering about was the one that went in between Bill Buckner's legs in the '86 World Series. Not a pleasant memory, and, I'm sure, those Red Sox fans who were able to afford psychoanalysts were told that in ensuing years they were suffering from some type of ground ball anxiety, a pronounced fear of getting disappointed at a key moment in a game because of errant fielding -- even if the game was a spring training "B" game in Bradenton. Getting this ball, of course, would enable BoSox management to have the ball of all balls and trump all disappointing balls of BoSox past.

Except Mientkiewicz isn't budging.

Which makes for an interesting drama. Do the BoSox cut him? Does the union step in and say that the cut was in retaliation for the first baseman's exercise of a valid property right? Does the team keep Mientkiewicz but sue him in court and fight out the property right? It's a shame that Ally McBeal is off the air, because creator David E. Kelley would have had a field day with this one.

After all, the BoSox management really wants that ball. And, from going to many games over the years, we all know first-hand how hard people fight for game-used baseballs. Men in $1,000 suits dive for them and risk shattering their Tag Heuer watches, people throw punches over them, jump onto the field for them, wrestle for them and even go to court in the San Francisco area over them.

So I have a better idea. Guys, with all due respect, the ball is just a thing. And things come and go. And, yes, things can be replaced. Even this thing. Yes, even this ball. Because, at the end of the day, what matters is the accomplishment of a great group of players, not the ball that made the last out. So who really cares if either side gets to keep it?

Especially given that halfway around the world, a catastrophe of biblical proportions just hit. Well over 100,000 people lost their lives, there's a fear of potential outbreaks of infectious diseases because of the aftermath of the tsunami, and many who lived lost everything. So while you're fighting over a baseball, you're being silly in the grander scheme of things. Instead of fighting about this in the press and in back rooms, why don't you let the ball do something very good?

Auction it for charity.

You'll get hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million. Because out there in this world is some brahmin, some magnate, some actor, some money manager, some investment banker -- someone who absolutely adores the Boston Red Sox. Someone who is very much into collecting trophies. Someone who wants this ball badly.

And someone who will pay even more than what it's probably worth because it will be for a great cause.

So go to Christie's, go to Sotheby's, ask them to waive their fees (and they could use some good publicity too), and then auction the ball to the entire world. Let's hope it goes for $1 million, and then let's use that $1 million to help people rebuild their lives.

After all, the Red Sox' 2004 season was all about hope, never giving up and the art of the possible.

Let's let this ball be about the same things.


Blogger Ugo said...

Good thought to the issue. However, that would probably work in a Utopian world. Doug Mientkiewicz is probably not about to give it up without some financial restitution coming back to him and I find it hard to blame him. My guess is that in the end, the Red Sox will purchase it from him and part of that money goes to help with the Tsunami Relief.

4:29 PM  

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