After a wave of generous fans willing to give back milestone home run baseballs, the man who wound up with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th is apparently looking to cash in.
The Florida Marlins fan who snared one of baseball’s most significant home run balls used a little deceit to make a clean getaway Monday night.
Identifying himself only as "Joe", the 40-something season ticket holder apparently grabbed the ball on the fly, then pointed to the ground to send other fans on a wild goose chase while he quietly passed out of the mini mob scene.
The fan who snared the 500th home run ball hit by Manny Ramirez opted to trade it back to the player in exchange for a collection of autographed Red Sox items as did the White Sox backer who grabbed Jim Thome’s 500th last season. However, Joe told Cincinnati Reds officials he "had plans for the ball" before leaving Dolphin Stadium long before the final out Monday.
He told Marlins’ president David Samson he wasn’t ready to turn the ball back over to Griffey "because of his circumstances" but wouldn’t elaborate. He left the ballpark without speaking to the media or meeting the Reds’ outfielder.
"I spoke to him and thanked him for being a season-ticket holder and told him we’d speak tomorrow," Samson told reporters. "He asked me to speak to the media on his behalf. He’s a private guy. He’s at home now."
Samson said the fan told him he had grabbed the ball on the fly after he "had a hunch" Griffey would pull one to right field.
Justin Kimball, a 25-year-old from Miami, told reporters he was the one who caught the home run ball and then had it ripped from his hands. Kimball said that person then ran off with the ball.
Police said they would look at video tape to see if Kimball’s claims could be supported.
However, the Marlins announced later that Major League Baseball had authenticated the home run ball presented by the fan in the Marlins jersey.
Griffey homered in the first inning of the Reds’ victory. At least two Reds employees joined several security and police officers in a room on the stadium’s first floor, hoping to convince Joe to turn the ball over but quickly realizing it would not happen immediately–if ever.
In fact, the odds of Griffey getting the ball back for a few autographs doesn’t seem likely. He’s one of only six players to ever reach the 600 homer plateau and the only one in recent years to not have steroid talk surrounding the achievement. It’s possible the ball could fetch $50,000 at auction.
“He recognizes the importance of the ball," Samson said of the fan. "He recognizes the importance it would have to Ken (Griffey) who he called a class act and a first-rate player,’’ Samson said.
The fan who caught Griffey’s 500th home run ball in 2004 returned it to the future Hall of Famer.
"Ken Griffey Jr. would like to have that ball back," Rick Stowe, the Reds’ clubhouse manager, told Joe. And that’s not surprising. Griffey is a bit of a collector, saving items he will likely pass on to his children.
"Yeah, I would like to have it," Griffey said. "But I can’t control it if the guy has it."
|Mark McGwire 70th of season||$3 million||1999|
|Babe Ruth 1933 1st All Star game HR||$805,000||2006|
|Barry Bonds 756th||$752,467||2007|
|Hank Aaron 755th (final)||$650,000||1999|
|Barry Bonds 73rd of season||$517,500||2001|
|Barry Bonds’ 762nd (final?)||$376,612||2008|
|Barry Bonds 715th||$220,100||2006|
|Barry Bonds 755th||$186,750||2007|
|Sammy Sosa 66th of season||$150,000||1999|
|Mickey Mantle 500th||$144,000||2007|
|Babe Ruth 1st HR at Yankee Stadium||$126,500||1998|
|Barry Bonds 700th||$102,000||2005|
|Barry Bonds 70th of season||$60,000||2007|
|Ken Griffey Jr. 500th||$0 returned by fan||2004|
|Frank Thomas 500th||$0 returned by fan||2007|