- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

The people have spoken — the computer-literate people, at least. Barry Bonds‘ 756th home run ball won’t be shot into space or shipped to the Baseball Hall of Fame without editorial comment; no, it will be sent to Cooperstown affixed with an asterisk, sports’ version of the Scarlet Letter.

It’s a wonderful thing, democracy, and every once in a while it gets it right. Fashion designer Mark Ecko, owner of the historic spheroid, could have decided unilaterally what to do with the ball, could have imposed his own morality on the situation, but he realized the issue was bigger than him. So he put it to an Internet vote, and the Asterisk Party — his party, by the way — prevailed.

Cue the confetti.

After all, blasting the ball to the other side of the galaxy might have made for great television, but it wouldn’t have accomplished anything. The Neptunians, I suspect, would have been utterly flummoxed by the horsehide hurtling toward them — and might even launched countermeasures, thinking they were under attack. (Hell hath no fury like a Neptunian who has just had a baseball land in his yard.)

Instead, the Bonds ball will serve, as it should, as a reminder to future generations — a reminder of the evils of flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. Millions of Little Leaguers will be able to file past the display at the Hall, note ball’s unusual tattoo and be forever warned. It will be Barry’s greatest gift to baseball.

Besides, it’s about time Cooperstown was politicized a bit. The place has always been so darn neutral, so nonjudgmental. And let’s face it, the Hall is full of scoundrels, of players who used to grab base runners by the belt or throw pitches that defied the laws of physics. Maybe a separate wing should be built for them — to keep them quarantined, as it were. I can practically hear the tour guide now:

“And over here, folks, we have a jar of Gaylord Perry’s saliva. Yup, ol’ Gaylord really liked to load ‘em up. The umpires finally caught him in the act in 1982 and ejected him from a game. Of course, he was 43 at the time, so it’s hard to know whether he was throwing a spitter or had just begun to drool.

“On your right is an odds sheet once belonging to Pete Rose, the all-time hit leader with 4,256. Pete denied for almost two decades that he bet on baseball, was suspended indefinitely from the game, then finally confessed to help sell a book he ‘wrote.’ He’s banned from the Hall right now, but a lot of people think he might get in the day after hell freezes over.

“Just ahead you’ll see the corked bat Norm Cash wielded when he won the 1961 American League batting title. Norm batted 75 points higher that year than he did in any other season, so it must have been pretty good cork. I’m guessing it came from a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, probably a ‘59.

“There are also a number of other interesting items Joe Niekro’s emery board, Kevin Gross’ Black-and-Decker sander, the telescope Herman Franks peered through to steal signals for the Giants in 1951 and Barry Bonds’ original size 101/2 cleats, the ones he wore before his feet began looking like Herman Munster’s. A pair of his later cleats, the size 13s, are in the Museum of Natural History

Bonds has already called Ecko “stupid” and “an idiot” for not according the artifact more respect, for not treating it as an investment property. “He spent $750,000 on the ball [$752,467 to be exact], and that’s what he’s doing with it?” Barry said incredulously.

But Ecko was undeterred. And indeed, why should he care whether he has the approval of Bonds, the guy who put the “ass” in asterisk? It’s clearly important to him to make this symbolic gesture, to express his concern that “some of the best athletes in the country are forced to decide between being competitive and staying natural.” And while he might have a weakness for self-promotion, his heart is in the right place.

So the ball, adorned with a “*,” will be packed off to Cooperstown, there to reside with Edd Roush’s 48-ounce bat and Joe Morgan’s kid-sized glove. The Hall is happy to get it, branded or unbranded. It’s the ball Barry Bonds belted to break Hank Aaron’s home run record, the foulest fair ball in major league history.

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