|Wednesday, December 18
Updated: December 19, 9:06 AM ET
If only hotter heads had prevailed
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
What Judge Kevin McCarthy did Wednesday was to split Barry Bonds' 73rd homer down the middle -- half for Alex Popov, who had it first, and half for Patrick Hayashi, who had it last.
"Ladies and gentlemen, be seated, for I am the law and you'd better believe it! (He flashes a glimpse of the gun beneath his robe, looking every bit like a present-day Judge Dredd.) I don't want to hear one sound from any of you from this moment to the time I get in my car. I'm too old to care any more.
"Now, in all my years on the bench, I have been confronted by all manner of crimes and punishments, plaintiffs and defendants, and I can't begin to tell you the wide range of lawyering I've seen -- from Darrow-esque to learning-impaired chimpanzee.
"But this case beats them all, and by a good light year. The plaintiff asserts a right to a ball he did not legally possess at any moment. The defendant asserts a right to the ball he only got because 20 drunken yobbos pounded the plaintiff semi-stupid.
"So in ruling as I must, I have been given absolutely no rooting interest whatsoever. It is all I can do each morning to choke down the bile rising in my neck just to consider your wretched, hungry faces.
"Now I have taken more than a month to find a precedent that covers this situation, from Hammurabi to Monty Python's determination of the winner of the Summarize Proust Competition. I have read law books, I have scanned law books, I have even thrown them at my cat while shrieking profanities in every part of speech, and the only conclusion I can reach is this:
"I'm keeping the damned ball. Me. No complaining. No appeals. I get it, and shut up with that objection, laughing boy. I'm doing the talking. Interrupt again, and I'll punch enough slugs in you to make a saxophone.
"Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant have exhibited sufficient sympathy to keep from being thrown in front of a cab, let alone be awarded a million-dollar baseball.
"Their lawyers have tied up valuable court time calling witnesses and arguing motions so monstrously stupid that my court reporter once tried to pull off her own head just to make the noise stop. Martha, I hope you're feeling better, and that turtleneck suits you.
"The Hall of Fame has enough crap as it is, and Mr. Bonds, who had the good sense never to attend our little nightmare, has more money than Jesus' accountant.
"So that essentially leaves me. I'm the one whose name was drawn out of the Hat Of Hell to get this case. I'm the one who had to look at your gray, sorry, saggy, pustulate faces day after day. I'm the one who had to hear your impassioned pleas and relentless begging for a baseball you should all be struck with by Randy Johnson rather than possess. I'm the one who had to listen to Rich Garcia, the umpire, try to apply the rules of baseball to a concrete concourse 30 feet above the field.
"I'm the one who's watched fascinating trials with great legal issues argued by skilled practitioners go on to other judges while I sit here day after soul-eating day listening to your petty bickering about who-kicked-who-in-the-groin and who-just-happened-to-be-walking-by-with-a-bag-of-popcorn-and-a-song-in-my-heart-when-the-ball-rolled-to-my-feet-like-a-puppy, to the point where I feel like vomiting up Detroit.
"I'm the one who's been throwing down Advils like they were Pez for three freaking months, and my stomach still feels like two wolverines having a custody fight in my lower intestines.
"And you're the ones who have done this to me. You are lucky I am not allowed to throw you into a cell with a chess set with 27 missing pieces, and the collected works of Trent Lott.
"YOU ARE VIRULENT, HEARTLESS, GRUESOME BEINGS FROM THE NINTH CIRCLE OF HELL ITSELF!
"Sorry, Martha. Strike that from the record, if you would be so kind.
"Anyway, back to me. I have shown more than sufficient forbearance over the course of this trial. My colleagues on the bench ask me at least three times a week if I've sentenced any of you hideous weasels to death yet.
"Would that I could.
"But sadly, I cannot. I can, however, punish you in a way that would hurt almost as much. I keep the ball. I sell it to some wealthy, drooling idiot on eBay. I keep the million scoots. I retire with my family to a quiet place where being a lawyer is considered akin to being skeet, and where I can never see nor hear from nor about any of you again.
"And that goes for you media twerps, too. I saw you back there every day, sniggering into your sleeves, making fun of 'That poor slug up there,' writing those stories that mocked the legal system I have fought so hard to defend -- only to find with this trial that you're all correct.
"This has been a waste of America's time, but I cannot grant the proceeds of this ball to America, insofar as each citizen would be awarded approximately two-fifths of a penny.
"So it's mine, and there isn't a judge in America who would hear your appeal. You could have sat down together like adults and split the money yourselves. But no, you both wanted it all.
"Well, you gambled. You lost. Life goes on, sadly enough in this case.
"My last words to you both, then, are these. Do yourselves a favor. If you must go to another ballgame, keep your hands in your pockets. I don't know how Nino Scalia or David Souter would handle it, but I will be much less tolerant to repeat offenders, if you get my drift and I think you do.
"No, those aren't my last words. These are.
"Get out. Now. Run. Run, or Ol' Betsy here gets an airing. Court adjourned forever."
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com