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Newz Forum: BASEBALL: First baseman holding on to game-winner

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posted on Jan, 7 2005 @ 05:40 PM
BOSTON -- The Red Sox have the title. Now they want the ball.

Backup first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz caught the ball for the final out of the World Series, ending Boston's 86-year championship drought.

He then put the souvenir in a safe deposit box. Only one problem: The Red Sox say the ball should be in their hands.

The player who didn't join the team until July 31 still wants to keep it but recognizes its meaning to the team's passionate rooters -- a prize that completed a four-game sweep of St. Louis and ended the misery.

"Of course I want Red Sox fans to see the ball," Mientkiewicz said in a call he made to WEEI radio. "The main reason why I hung on to the darn thing is because I want people to see it."

So does Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, and he planned to ask Mientkiewicz to give it to the team.

"We want it to be part of Red Sox archives or museums so it can be shared with the fans," Lucchino told The Boston Globe. "We would hope he would understand the historical nature of it."

Lucchino and Red Sox owner John Henry did not return e-mails requesting comment. Messages left at the homes of Mientkiewicz and his father were not returned and a woman who came to the door at his Coral Gables, Fla., house said he wasn't there.

Mientkiewicz said Friday he had a "nice conversation" with team owner John Henry.

In an era rife with memorabilia sellers and collectors -- the New England Patriots once sold jars of dirt for $10 from Foxboro Stadium before it was torn down after the 2001 season -- such an historic baseball might command hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

After all, on the very day Mientkiewicz squeezed the final out in his glove, the ball Barry Bonds hit for his 700th home run brought a top bid of $804,129 after a 10-day online auction.

Mientkiewicz said the ball he caught was "my retirement fund," the Globe reported. On Friday, he said he was kidding.

"If Mr. Lucchino wants to talk to me about the ball personally, he has my phone number. He can call me," Mientkiewicz said on WEEI.

Mientkiewicz, unhappy as a part-time player last season, is set to make $3.75 million in the final year of his two-year contract. The team has an option to renew it at $4 million for 2006 but has said it intends to trade Mientkiewicz or its other first baseman, Kevin Millar, before spring training.

Mike Martin coached Mientkiewicz at Florida State from 1993-95 and is convinced the player won't sell the ball for personal gain.

"There's not a selfish bone in the guy's body," said Martin, in his 26th year as head coach of the Seminoles. "He was one of the most popular players to ever play here. He also was a guy who was a fan favorite in Minnesota. He's also very community oriented and I'm sure that's the case in the city of Boston."

The Red Sox obtained the slick-fielding Mientkiewicz in a trade deadline deal with the Twins. He was a late-inning replacement in each of the four World Series games after being a starter for the previous three seasons.

Boston led 3-0 in Game 4 in St. Louis when Mientkiewicz entered in the bottom of the seventh. He didn't handle the ball until there were two outs in the ninth and shortstop Edgar Renteria grounded it back to the mound. Pitcher Keith Foulke trotted toward first and underhanded it to Mientkiewicz.

With the ball in his grasp, Mientkiewicz raised his right index finger in triumph and rushed to the pile of celebrating players. In the locker room, he gave the ball to his wife, Jodi, who put it in her purse then brought it to Fenway Park the next day, where it was authenticated by major league baseball officials.

So who owns it?

"This is a gray area as to what players think they can take with them," Lucchino said.

Carmine Tiso, spokesman for MLB, told the Globe that Mientkiewicz owns the baseball. Joe Januszewski, Red Sox director of corporate partnerships, said he thinks the team owns it.

And the bat?

Renteria still has it and could bring it with him to Fenway after he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent.

"A professional baseball player is like a golfer," said Jeffrey Lane, Renteria's agent. "They know what their five-iron feels like."

Back in 1918, when the Red Sox won their previous World Series title, there was another dispute. The sixth and final game was delayed because of a debate over how much of the gate receipts players would get. But the game went on and Boston beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1.

The last out was another grounder that second baseman Dave Shean threw to first baseman Stuffy McInnis. The next-to-last out? A fly ball to Red Sox left fielder Babe Ruth, who was sold to the New York Yankees in 1920.

For the first time since then, the Red Sox are champions so Mientkiewicz knows the importance of the ball he has locked away.

"It belongs in the stadium where we brought it home to, and if they would like to see it then I'd be more than happy to," he said. "That's part of history and I think people have waited long enough. They deserve to see it."



posted on Jan, 22 2005 @ 04:19 PM
Mientkiewicz likely to lose in court

BOSTON -- Doug Mientkiewicz, call a lawyer. You're going to need one if you want to keep the baseball you caught for the final out of the World Series.

The Red Sox first baseman is storing the ball that clinched Boston's first title since 1918 in a safe-deposit box near his Florida home. But the Red Sox want it back so they can show it off, and legal scholars say the team has a good case if it wants to fight Mientkiewicz in court.

"What appears to be emerging as a legal consensus is that the person with the least rights to it is Mientkiewicz himself," said Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh, who ranked the claims as: "the Cardinals, the Red Sox, Major League Baseball and then the guy who happened to hold it at the end of the game."

Baseball clubs don't routinely distribute game balls like football teams do, and the final out is most likely to wind up tossed to a fan unless one of the players reached a milestone that day. No one's spent much time discussing who actually owns the ball because, until now, it hasn't really mattered.

As the rise of the memorabilia market makes such items increasingly valuable, though, baseball is being forced to confront the issue of who owns the otherwise interchangeable pieces -- the bases, the balls, the uniforms -- that make the game go. On the same day the Red Sox clinched the Series, the ball Barry Bonds hit for his 700th career homer sold for $804,129.

"What this has done is force the baseball teams and MLB to make some decisions about who gets the noncontractual value of a valuable trophy," said Paul Finkelman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa. "Does he (Mientkiewicz) get a $500,000 bonus because he's the last guy to hold it?"

Mientkiewicz happened upon his keepsake when St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria knocked it back to Red Sox pitcher Keith Foulke with two outs in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the World Series. Foulke made an underhand toss to first base, and Boston's 86-year title drought was over.

Mientkiewicz also made the final putout of the AL Championship Series victory over the New York Yankees and gave that ball to pitcher Derek Lowe. But the first baseman kept this one, and it was among the many items authenticated by Major League Baseball in the chaotic clubhouse afterward.

Mientkiewicz initially called the ball his "retirement fund," though he later backed off those comments and said he wants it for sentimental value. The problem is, so does the team that waited nine decades years to even have a chance to talk about the last out of a World Series victory.

"It's not Doug's ball. It belongs to all of us," said Roger Abrams, a Northeastern University law professor who has written several baseball books. "He is the trustee of the ball but it is owned by all of Red Sox Nation and it should find a place of special importance, either at Fenway or Cooperstown."

Finkelman, who was an expert witness in the court fight over Bonds' 73rd home run ball, said the fact that Mientkiewicz was a midseason addition and a late-inning replacement makes his claim to the ball tenuous. If he had made a leaping catch to secure the victory, been a major contributor during the regular season or even weathered the franchise's lean years, fans and courts might be more sympathetic.

"The notion that Mientkiewicz did anything is absurd. He didn't do anything," Finkelman said. "He caught an underhanded toss from a pitcher. This is what he's paid to do. He didn't win the World Series. It's simply coincidence that it ended at first base."

Of course, there was this little incident back in 1986.

"I understand that there's some irony in that," Finkelman said when reminded of the routine grounder that went through Bill Buckner's legs. "Because not every first baseman in Boston does his job."

By comparison, Curt Schilling could make a legitimate claim to the sock he wore when he pitched in the Series: Although the sock was the team's, the blood was his.

"It's his blood that makes it valuable," Abrams said. "Mientkiewicz doesn't add any value that made it unique to him."

Soon after Bonds' 73rd homer cleared the fence at Pac Bell Park, it landed in the middle of a skirmish in the stands that spilled into the courts. In Popov v. Hayashi, California Superior Court Judge Kevin McCarthy considered the claim that Major League Baseball still owned the ball after the homer and "later gifted it to Mr. Hayashi."

"There is no evidence to support it," the judge wrote. Instead, the ball belonged to Major League Baseball until it was hit, and as it flew out of the ballpark it became "intentionally abandoned property."

"The first person who came in possession of the ball became its new owner," McCarthy decided. Then they fought over what constituted possession, with McCarthy ruling the ball should be sold at auction so the proceeds could be split between them.

But that ball left the playing field; Mientkiewicz's was still part of the game when he gloved it. And he wasn't a fan who bought a ticket in the outfield arcade; he was a Red Sox employee in his workplace doing his job.

"Clearly teams have agreed that when the ball is hit out of the park, it's abandoned. But they have never said that when it's in the park it's abandoned," Finkelman said.

That makes Mientkiewicz like a research scientist who makes a lucrative discovery at work: He's sure to get an attaboy from the boss, but the royalties and patents probably belong to the company.

"We know if he found the ball in the woods, it's his. But he didn't find the ball in the woods," Abrams said. "Does that mean any first baseman that catches any ball that arrives at first base owns the ball? Of course not."

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the team is negotiating for the ball through Mientkiewicz's agent. The logical and expected solution is for Mientkiewicz to own the ball and lend it to the Red Sox so they can display it.

Lucchino also said the team is working on a policy to avoid another fight over, say, the ball that clinches the first Red Sox World Series repeat since 1916.

Finkelman thinks Major League Baseball needs to clarify the rules for the whole industry.

"MLB should decide that the winning team should be able to dispose of the game ball," he said. "And, in general, when a player reaches a milestone, it's simply good sportsmanship" to give it to him.

No one thinks the issue will just go away.

"What's this about Lowe having the New York ball?" Koh asked. "That's the ball I want."


posted on Jan, 28 2005 @ 06:54 PM
Ball finds a home for now

January 28, 2005
BOSTON (AP) -- The baseball Doug Mientkiewicz caught for the out that ended the Boston Red Sox 86-year championship drought is going back to the team -- for one year, anyway.

The club and its former first baseman announced Friday that while no decision has been made on who owns the ball, it will be encased in a special plaque and join the World Series trophy on its victory tour.

``Doug was a key part of our stretch run and postseason victories and he won over our fans in a very short period of time,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. ``We thank him for his many contributions and are pleased that our fans will be able to get close to the ball. We wish him the best of luck in the other league in 2005.''

Mientkiewicz was traded Wednesday to the New York Mets. He's a better fielder than Boston's other first baseman, Kevin Millar, but lacks Millar's power at the plate.

Still, Mientkiewicz played an important part as a late-inning replacement for Millar in each of the four World Series games. It was in that role that he recorded the final putout of the clinching 3-0 win over St. Louis when Edgar Renteria hit the ball back to pitcher Keith Foulke, who threw to first.

Mientkiewicz, the 2001 Gold Glove winner with Minnesota, clutched the ball and kept it as a souvenir. The team asked for it back this month and the decision was made to let the Red Sox display it.

``There was never a fight, there was never words exchanged'' over ownership of the ball, Mientkiewicz said this week. ``It was very cordial, and we worked something out.

``I want the fans to see it, and that's what both the Red Sox and I agreed on. They waited a long time to see that ball and to live it. The fact that I had it was just so we could keep it and give it to the fans and let them see it.''

He also said he ``probably'' would get the ball back after a year.

On Friday, the statement issued by the Red Sox and Mientkiewicz said that at his suggestion, proceeds directly derived from exhibiting the ball will be donated to the Red Sox Foundation, the team's charity organization.

``We truly appreciate the cooperative spirit with which Doug and his wife Jodi have approached this matter and their willingness to make the ball available to Red Sox fans,'' Lucchino said.

The team said the decision to trade Mientkiewicz for minor league first baseman Ian Bladergroen was a baseball decision, not a decision about a baseball.

``The ball issue was never a factor in this trade or in this negotiating process,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said when the trade was made.

posted on Jan, 29 2005 @ 11:24 AM

Originally posted by toejam

``The ball issue was never a factor in this trade or in this negotiating process,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said when the trade was made.

Yeah, right...

posted on Feb, 3 2005 @ 07:57 PM
World Series ball put on display for Boston fans

BOSTON -- The red carpet was set up outside the Green Monster. A Brinks truck rounded the corner, two gun-toting guards got out and cameras recorded it all.

The ball used for the final out of the World Series finally reached Fenway Park on Thursday.

"This is quite the thing," guard Joseph Fleury said. "This is the cat's meow."

The Red Sox made a big deal over a slightly soiled sphere with a hologram sticker certifying it as the ball first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz caught in St. Louis last Oct. 27, the final out of the four-game sweep that gave Boston its first World Series championship in 86 years.

Mientkiewicz caught it from pitcher Keith Foulke, then put it in a safe deposit box and claimed ownership. Eventually, he agreed to loan the ball to the Red Sox for one year, leaving the question of ownership to be decided.

Mientkiewicz gave the ball to Red Sox owner John Henry, and Brinks got the ball Wednesday from a safe deposit box of Henry's at a Florida bank. Brinks accompanied the ball on a flight to Boston that landed early Thursday, then transferred the ball to the truck.

On Thursday, it was in the secure grip of John Wynott, the younger guard, as a chilly rain fell on dirty snow banks and a meter maid went about her business plastering orange tickets on windshields.

With only a few fans watching and Fleury guarding his back, Wynott carried the ball in a black canvas bag and walked the 200-foot red carpet to an escalator that took him to the Hall of Fame Club inside Fenway where team president Larry Lucchino waited eagerly.

"You've got something for us, I think," Lucchino said with a smile.

He signed a pink receipt, held the small carton and sliced it open with a knife. He dumped out the plastic foam peanuts (no Cracker Jacks), removed the bubble wrap and clutched the prize enclosed in a clear plastic cube.

Lucchino thanked Mientkiewicz, who wasn't present, and said "I'm relieved" that an agreement was reached.

"It's an important part of Red Sox history and it should be a ball that's honored and shared," said Lucchino, standing before a reproduction of a 1918 headline in the Boston Evening Globe: "Sox Win Championship."

The ball's first stop after the ceremony was in nearby Braintree, one of about 100 cities and towns that have either viewed the World Series trophy or are on the schedule for a visit. Now the trophy will have company on its journeys.

The Red Sox want as many fans as possible to view the traveling souvenir show.

"You take something ordinary, a baseball that you can buy in a store," said Charles Steinberg, the team's executive vice president for public affairs, "but because of its special nature, it's sanctified and it's now a special ball."

Mientkiewicz agrees.

"I want the fans to see it, and that's what both the Red Sox and I agreed on," he said last week after being traded to the New York Mets. "They waited a long time to see that ball and to live it. The fact that I had it was just so we could keep it and give it to the fans and let them see it."

Both guards were excited to perform the awesome duty of protecting a ball that ended years of frustration for Red Sox fans.

"There's monetary value and then there's historic value," Wynott said. "Something like this you really couldn't replace."

Said Fleury: "This tops the list" of items he's delivered.

Was the hoopla just a little over the top?

"If this had been some product of marketing imagination, the degree of festivity surrounding it could be viewed with a chuckle," Steinberg said. "There's nothing commercial about it."

But on the floor, the ball just rested in a new display case where Lucchino had placed it. The object of the excitement had no comment, a simple symbol that needed no words to convey its meaning.




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