If Barry Bonds isn't playing baseball this spring, the final home run ball of his career may never be authenticated.
It's a conundrum.
Much of Major League Baseball likely prefers that Barry Bonds fade away--quickly. The aging slugger wants to play in 2008 but his face is the one on the poster for an era that has produced questionable records and sordid tales the game's caretakers would rather not deal with.
Yet on some level, it would seem that at least a few people inside the league office would like to see Bonds come back just to hit one more home run. That's because for all of the painstaking efforts that were undertaken to preserve the balls leading up to Bonds surpassing Hank Aaron as the all-time home run leader last season, an error in judgement may have resulted in the loss of a historic piece of baseball memorabilia.
Like him or not, Bonds will remain the home run king for at least several more years. Certainly, he'll be #2 on the list for a long time even if Alex Rodgriguez flies by in about 2015. 762 will remain the record for now.
And no one knows where the ball is.
Bonds' 755th home run ball, which tied Hank Aaron, sold for $186,750. #756 went for $752,467. Even Bonds' 700th brought over $100,000 at auction. #762 would probably surpass them all.
But baseball stopped tracking and possibly even tagging balls pitched to Bonds just after he broke the record. He hit #762 on September 5 against the Rockies in Colorado (watch the video here). It was launched into the seats where fans tussled over it in the left-centerfield bleachers but the camera cut away before anyone emerged with the ball. The Rockies didn't bother to track down the fan who grabbed it. No one from baseball did either. So far, no fan has come forward with definite proof.
CNBC business blogger Darren Rovell offered to make the fan who wound up with the ball famous if only they could provide some kind of evidence. He received five notes but none could provide proof despite added publicity over its potential value of perhaps $1 million should Bonds not hit another.
One baseball official said MLB planned to continue authenticating Bonds' homers with two weeks left in the season, but the homer at Coors Field came earlier and would prove to be his last of 2007.
If it's the last of his career, you might be able to file it as a new addition to the "lost treasures of sports memorabilia" section.