Ball’s Sellers Batting $450,000

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Times Staff Writer

The baseball Barry Bonds hit to set the record for most home runs in a season landed for good Wednesday -- sold at a New York auction for $450,000 to a sports memorabilia collector as the two fans who had battled for ownership of the ball looked on.

When the scrum for the valuable hunk of horsehide cleared -- both in the stands at Pac Bell Park on Oct. 7, 2001, and in subsequent court face-offs here -- Bonds’ 73rd home run ball went to collector Todd McFarlane. The creator of the Spawn comic book series also owns slugger Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball from 1999. McFarlane made his winning bid by telephone from Dallas.

The story of who would finally own the baseball went into extra innings after two Bay Area men battled for the ball in the stands behind right center field, then took the case to court. Berkeley restaurant owner Alex Popov caught the ball in his glove and held it for nearly a second until it was knocked from his grasp in the crush of fans. Sacramento marketer Patrick Hayashi finally came up with the souvenir.


After both men claimed ownership and Popov sued, the case went to court. In December, a judge ordered the two men to sell the ball and split the proceeds, setting the stage for Wednesday’s televised auction.

Hayashi on Wednesday said he is glad that the baseball is owned by a “real sports fan,” whom he predicted will tour the ball nationally and later place it in the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a fitting end,” said Hayashi, adding that he and Popov have settled their differences and even shook hands before television cameras.

He said the legal fight will still go down in baseball history, and denied that it would be remembered as an embarrassment.

But Hayashi said he didn’t feel much richer: “Any money I get will be a wash after I pay my legal fees.”