Things worked out well for Derek Jeter and the Yankees. Set aside the 5-for-5 game-winning hit day he had to get through the 3,000 hit barrier. Where the ball landed was nothing short of miraculous. How many fans would have taken the stance that 23-year-old Christian Lopez did? Minutes after reaching over the first row rail to grab a piece of baseball history, the Yankee fan said without a second’s hesitation that he was giving the ball back to the Yankee captain.
Opinion has been largely split. One wonders, however, if Lopez knew what the ball could have brought through a sports memorabilia auction? This was no quick little $25,000 payday for a nice souvenir. This was one of the most sought after relics in the last 20 years. 27 others have 3,000 hits but no other Yankees have reached the milestone. Jeter’s popularity crosses not only racial lines but gender too. He’s never been in real trouble. He’s one of the game’s all-time greats with a pocket full of World Series rings and a library full of pictures showing his great moments. $100,000 was the low end of the scale. Many believe it could have sold for three times that much with the proper build up.
Lopez seems like a genuinely nice guy. The relieved Yankees showered him with autographed gear and four tickets to a luxury suite for the rest of the season. If he did know what the ball would be worth at auction and still gave it back, it’s a gesture that would bat leadoff on any team.
“I’m not going to take it away from him,” Lopez told reporters afterward. “Money’s cool and all, but I’m 23 years old, I’ve got a lot of time to make that.”
He’ll need a high-paying job.
Lopez admitted to WFAN radio that he had a mountain of student loans to pay off. He played non-scholarship college football. Even if he was selfless enough to not want the money for himself, it could have raised a huge profit for worthy charities, even after taxes.
And despite giving the ball back to Jeter and the Yanks—a pair of wealthy entities who could have easily purchased it back–Lopez likely faces tax implications if he accepts the team’s gifts of signed memorabilia and luxury box seating for the remainder of the season.
The Yankees also lucked out when Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career homer last year. It was retrieved by a member of the Yankee Stadium grounds crew who gave it back to ARod.
Here’s a list of what some other milestone baseballs have sold for. All are home run balls, since it’s rare that a ball that lands in play winds up in the memorabilia market.
|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|
|Eddie Murray 500th||$280,000||1996|
|Babe Ruth signed 702nd HR||$264,500||2010|
|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|
|Alex Rodriguez 500th||$103,579||2010|
|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|
Check out game-used memorabilia for sale on eBay.