Bonds' 756 ball to be marked

Bonds' 756 ball to be marked

Citing the "passion" of baseball fans who voted online, fashion designer Marc Ecko revealed Wednesday morning that a big asterisk will be branded onto the ball Barry Bonds hit on Aug. 7 for his record 756th homer and that it will be presented that way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Ecko made a successful auction bid of $752,467 earlier this month for the ball, and he revealed Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show that more than 10 million votes were counted on his Web site and "Brand It" was the clear winner with nearly half the vote over "Bestow It" and "Banish It."

"Ten million votes -- the people, obviously, in the passion of their response, tell us baseball is alive and well," Ecko said. "This, to me, was about this great public discourse. The relationship between spectator and player is one of the greatest that defines American history."

These, according to Ecko, were the final results:

Option A: "Bestow it intact to Cooperstown" drew 34 percent of the votes.

Option B: "Permanently brand the ball with an asterisk before sending it to Cooperstown" drew 47 percent.

Option C: "Launch it into space forever" drew 19 percent.

"We're going to have to find a different artifact to send up to space," Ecko said in making the announcement. "Banish was 19 percent, so 80 percent of Americans wanted this ball on Earth, and it will go to the Hall of Fame with an asterisk."

Dale Petroskey, president of the Hall of Fame, said the institution is "more than happy" to receive the ball, however it is presented. It will be displayed there for fans that make the year-round pilgrimages to Cooperstown in upstate New York.

"Since the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum first opened in 1939, the generosity of players, teams and fans, like Marc Ecko, has made it possible to preserve baseball history in Cooperstown," Petroskey said. "Every one of the nearly 35,000 artifacts in our collection has been donated.

"We're grateful to Marc for donating this baseball, which represents one of the game's most historic records. Baseball belongs to the fans -- it always has and always will. The asterisk represents the voice of the fans at this moment in time. The level of interest reflects the strong bond between baseball and American culture. Our responsibility as a history museum is to present every story in proper context, and this ball allows us to do that."

Petroskey said on "Today" that this whole subject represents "an intersection of a couple of deeply held American values. First, innocent until proven guilty. The other is fair play. People want to know this record was gotten on an even playing field."


"This, to me, was about this great public discourse."
-- Fashion designer Marc Ecko

Bonds, for his part, said the options "don't weigh anything. In baseball that number [756] stands."

"He's stupid. He's an idiot," Bonds told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He spent $750,000 on the ball and that's what he's doing with it? What he's doing is stupid."

"Today" co-host Matt Lauer asked Ecko if he was offended by those comments.

"Not really," Ecko said. "I've been called worse, for sure."

In a subsequent news release issued by his company, Ecko elaborated on the results:

"The fans have spoken and the asterisk will forever be part of the history of this ball. It is a reflection of fans' sentiments and will be preserved by the Hall of Fame in this manner. This was never about the record. I saw the purchase of the ball as an opportunity to open a national conversation using new media -- the Internet, blogs, videos -- to allow America's oldest sport to have America's most modern conversation. The people should be the arbiters of what is historically significant about this artifact. The opportunities for expression, and our participation in the public square, are endless.

"We are gratified to have the Hall of Fame's support in this effort. Its curatorial staff is working with us to carry out the popular vote while preserving the ball. Being in the Hall of Fame will ensure that future generations can read about, reflect on and keep the discourse of this moment alive."

Bonds' milestone baseballs have tended to take adventurous paths after leaving the field of play. The 756 ball was just the latest example. In 2001, when Bonds set the single-season record for home runs, his 73rd blast also found controversy.

Video showed that it first nestled into the glove of Alex Popov, but Patrick Hayashi is the person who emerged from the ensuing scrum with that ball and was ushered downstairs by Giants security at AT&T (then Pac Bell) Park. Nearly two years later, Judge Kevin McCarthy of San Francisco Superior Court ruled that the 73 ball be sold and proceeds be split equally among the two fans. It was then auctioned for what was considered at the time a shockingly low $450,000 to the winning bidder, comic book impresario Todd McFarlane -- who had paid $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th-homer ball struck in the 1998 season.

On May 28, 2006, Bonds passed Babe Ruth for No. 2 on the all-time list with his 715th homer. Giants fan Andrew Morbitzer came away with that ball while he was standing in a concession line, and he auctioned it on eBay for $220,100 to an anonymous fan. It exceeded experts' predictions, considering the controversy that was forming fast during Bonds' chase. Morbitzer said he planned to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the charity Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.

The 756 ball is about to be branded with an asterisk and presented to the public that way at the Hall of Fame. The records are official, but the people have taken matters into their own hands on this one.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.