|Tuesday, November 11
Auction house confident of ball's authenticity
By Darren Rovell
Almost a month after Steve Bartman became a household name across the country, the famous ball that he deflected finally has emerged. And the much-maligned Chicago Cubs fan doesn't even get to pocket the change once it's auctioned off.
MastroNet, a sports auction house based in Oak Brook, Ill., claims it has the ball. The company researched the authenticity via reviews of affidavits from the owner and his friends, ticket stubs and photographs from the incident that took place during the eighth inning of Game Six of the NLCS.
"This ball is now part of Cubs history," said Brian Marren, MastroNet's vice president of acquisitions. "When items like this go up for auction, it never surprises me the amount of people that are interested."
The owner of the alleged ball -- a 33-year-old attorney identified only as "Jim" -- said he saw the ball hit off the rail in front of him. The ball then ricocheted toward him, and he caught it and put the souvenir in his pocket.
"At the time, I was just so happy I caught a foul ball from a game that the Cubs clinched the pennant," said Jim, who did not want to reveal his last name.
The incident occurred when the Cubs were five outs away from winning Game 6 and advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945. But after Bartman and other fans in the area interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou's ability to make a play on the foul ball, the Cubs unraveled. The Marlins scored eight runs and defeated the Cubs, 8-3.
Jim, who was sitting a row behind Bartman, said he took the ball back to his house that night. Even though the ball would have "just been a footnote if the Cubs won Game 7," he said, he continued to root for his hometown team to prevail in the final game.
After the Marlins won Game 7 in Chicago to advance to the World Series, Bartman became the scapegoat and the ball's value increased.
Bidding starts Dec. 1 and closes on Dec. 19. The starting bid is $5,000.
Last month, memorabilia experts told ESPN.com that the ball would not command significant dollars if it were to be auctioned.
"No true Cubs fan would want that ball, and I doubt a Florida Marlins fan would pay a lot of money for it," said Richard Russek, president of Grey Flannel, a competing sports auction house. "If someone paid $10,000 for it, it would be $9,000 too much."
Michael Heffner, managing partner of Leland's, another sports auction house, estimated the ball would command between $5,000 and $10,000.
The ball's alleged owner thinks that the estimates made by those in the business are too low.
"This is a positive piece of history for a Marlins fan," said Jim, who will earmark the proceeds from the sale towards the education of his soon-to-be-born child. "As for Cubs fans, maybe they should buy it and throw it back on the field for the first game next year."
The most recent precedent for a cursed ball auction was the price of the ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series. Charlie Sheen bought the ball for $93,500 in 1992. Songwriter and author Seth Swirsky then purchased the ball in 2000 for $63,500.
"I would definitely consider buying [the Bartman ball]," said Swirsky, who thinks it will sell for more than $10,000. "It's a real piece of history and a real piece of folklore."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.