Barry Bonds put the National Baseball Hall of Fame on notice Thursday, saying that he won't attend his own induction ceremony if the ball he hit for his 756th homer this past season is displayed in the museum embossed with an asterisk. "I will never be in the Hall of Fame. Never," Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 homers, told Jim Gray in an interview broadcast on MSNBC. "I will never be in the Hall of Fame." Bonds hedged four questions later in the interview when Gray asked: "Is that subject being reconsidered, or is it definite that if you are elected to the Hall of Fame there is no way you will be there?"
Like all players, Bonds will be eligible for election by select members of the Baseball Writers Association of America five years after his retirement. "Like I said, at this time I will not be there," said Bonds, the former Giants left fielder who filed for free agency on Monday and expects to play elsewhere next season. "That's my emotions now, that's how I feel now. When I decide to retire five years from now, we'll see where they are at that moment. We'll see where they are at that time and maybe I'll reconsider. But it's their position and their position will be the determination of what my decision will be at that time." Aside from agreeing to accept it, the Hall hasn't actually made any determination about what it plans to do with the ball, nor has it been taken into possession. The 43-year-old Bonds hit his 756th homer on Aug. 7 at San Francisco to pass Hank Aaron for the top spot on Major League Baseball's all-time list. Matt Murphy, the 21-year-old New Yorker who came up with the ball in the bleachers just to the right of center field at AT&T Park, had no choice but to sell it after he was told he would be heavily taxed if it remained in his possession. The ball was offered to the Hall by fashion designer Marc Ecko, who won an online auction, purchasing it for $752,467 on Sept. 15. Ecko then conducted an Internet vote asking fans whether the ball should be given to the Hall unscathed, given to the Hall marked with an asterisk or blasted into outer space. The winner was the asterisk, signifying doubts among fans that Bonds may have set the all-time career and single-season home run records (73 in 2001) with the help of performance-enhancing drugs. "That's not true. That's not right and it's not fair to me," Bonds told Gray, reiterating his long-held stance that he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs. About the asterisk, Bonds added: "I don't think you can put an asterisk on the game of baseball. I don't think that the Hall of Fame can accept an asterisk. You cannot give people the right to alter history. You can't do it. There's no such thing as an asterisk in baseball." Ecko will receive a huge tax break by gifting the doctored ball to the museum, but a Hall spokesman reached in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Thursday night said that the shrine would accept the ball, but had not made any promises regarding what will become of it. "We don't accept contributions from people with pre-conditions attached," said Jeff Idelson, a Hall vice president, who added that the Hall didn't want to respond to Bonds' comments. Once accepting it, the Hall has several choices: to put it on display, perhaps with an explanation of why the ball features an asterisk, or seal it in the archives with numerous other artifacts. An internal discussion is ongoing about the matter and that determination is pending.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.