Joe Figone was an experienced fisherman. He had a boat and motor, a net…and a nose for trophies.
Landing fish wasn’t his motivation, though. He was trying to snare baseballs and now his biggest catch is about to reach the open market for the first time.
Twenty years after it sailed over the right field wall, splashed into the water outside one of baseball’s newest ballparks and was scooped into his net, Figone has consigned Barry Bonds’ 500th home run ball to SCP Auctions. It will be among the featured attractions in the company’s Fall Premier catalog, set to open next month.
Just before Bonds began a serious pursuit of Hank Aaron’s career home run record—and become one of the sluggers embroiled in controversy over their unprecedented power numbers—he stepped to the plate on April 17, 2001, taking Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Terry Adams’ pitch into San Francisco Bay beyond the stands at the stadium then known as Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
As the fans went wild inside, an even crazier scene unfolded in those waters known as McCovey Cove. At least a dozen boaters scrambled to try to snatch the piece of baseball history. Figone, a former Candlestick Park groundskeeper, was one of those boaters and saw the ball heading in his direction.
Figone, a city parks employee, had already grabbed Bonds’ first splash hit on May 1, 2000, during the ninth game at the quirky new park. That blast off New York Mets pitcher Rich Rodriguez was also the first splash hit in the park’s history.
“I thought the first ball was enough,” he told ESPN at the time. “Who would have guessed that I would get Barry Bonds’ 500th, too?”
Typically, Figone would grab his net with his right hand to scoop the ball out of the water. As Bonds’ homer crested the wall, Figone revved the engine of his small motorboat. The angle forced him to hold the net with his left hand and after dodging a man clad in a wetsuit, he snared the ball. As a ceremony proceeded on the field featuring, fellow 500 club member Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Bonds’ father Barry, Figone and two Major League Baseball authenticators went on shore.
They placed hologram stickers on virtually everything: the ball, Figone’s boat and motor, his life jacket, fishing net, the jersey he was wearing– even the champagne bottle he had popped open to celebrate the moment.
The next morning, Figone took the ball straight to the bank and deposited it into his safe deposit box.
The 500th home run ball, along with Bonds’ first splash hit from the year before, left the bank only once– to be exhibited at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. in 2002. Otherwise, they have been stored and secured until now. Both will be offered in the auction, which is set to open October 13 at SCPAuctions.com, with the presale estimate on the 500th home run ball at $250,000.
Bonds’ 756th home run ball, the one that established the current home run record, sold for $752,467 in 2007. His 762nd and final home run ball, last sold for $276,000 in the spring of 2019.