Bonds' historic home run ball heading toward trial in dispute over million-dollar memento

Wednesday, November 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The baseball Barry Bonds swatted for his record 73rd home run is headed to trial.

A judge ruled Tuesday it's unclear who should keep the million-dollar memento _ the man who first gloved it, or the man who took it home after a tussle among fans.

Superior Court Judge David Garcia ruled the ball should remain locked up until a trial answers whether it belongs to Alex Popov, who snatched it and says he was robbed in the ensuing struggle, or Patrick Hayashi, who says he found it loose amid the skirmish.

No trial date was set.

Popov sued Hayashi days after the San Francisco Giants slugger hit the home run Oct. 7 at Pacific Bell Park. The ball could be worth more than $1 million, according to the man who brokered the $3 million sale of Mark McGwire's then-record 70th home run ball in 1998.

Though the facts of the case were not discussed in court Tuesday, both sides made their case outside to reporters.

Popov never closed his glove around the ball, said Hayashi's lawyer, Don Tamaki, citing testimony he says was collected by former major league umpire Rich Garcia.

If Popov didn't catch the ball he never possessed it, so he shouldn't be entitled to it, Tamaki said.

Citing a local TV videotape, Popov said he clearly caught the ball before being crushed by fans on the right-field arcade. He said he held it for at least 45 seconds. His lawyer, Marty Triano, portrayed the case as a fight to protect fans from a ``last-man-standing'' approach to the issue.

``Nobody wants Pac Bell turned into a European soccer riot,'' Triano said.