Amid controversy and more than a little scrutiny, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds continues his quest to hit his 714th home run tonight here in Houston, a long-ball that would tie Babe Ruth’s career mark. Number 715 would put him in second place behind Hank Aaron. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, the scramble to catch a Bonds home run in the stands could be a very profitable one.
So far this series, every Bonds at-bat has been met with a chorus of boos.
“Now batting, number 25, Barry Bonds”
Although Bonds has never tested positive for steroids, a cloud of suspicion has settled over him this season after a recent book made the case that he was a heavy user over the past five or six seasons. Jeff Rosenberg, who’s the president of Houston-based memorabilia company Tri-Star Productions, says either home run number 714 or 715 could be worth between $25,000 and $50,000.
“You get somebody that really thinks it’s a great ball, they’ll pay more, but based on that it’s Bonds and the issue that it could be a tainted record, I think all of that helps to drive it down.”
A few years ago when Bonds set the single-season home run record, a fan who caught his 70th homer here in Houston sold the ball for $60,000. Since then, the market for Bonds memorabilia has softened a bit.
“When he broke the home run record in 2001, we had his uniforms selling for $25,000, $30,000, $40,000 and we’ve seen those come down half roughly since that time. So that’s why I’m probably being a little more cautious on my estimation of this ball just because we’ve seen the trends on Bonds items come down since 2001 and the only thing I can say is we weren’t really questioning the validity in terms of steroids at that time.”
Seats in right field are sold out for this series, with fans standing during every Bonds at-bat. Rosenberg says he expects things to get rough in the stands if a Bonds ball ends up there.
“We fight over regular season foul balls that are worth $5 or $10. We fight over them. We’ll lose our beer, we’ll jump over kids. I’ve seen fans do a lot of crazy things for a $10 foul ball, so when you’re talking about something that could be worth $50,000 or more, there’s no telling what they’ll do. We’ll have a big reaction, that’s for sure.”
Back at Minute Maid Park, fans have different opinions about what they’d do with the home run balls that tie and then pass Babe Ruth’s career mark.
“This ball is so tainted. It’s so sad. I mean, you throw it back, you make a statement. If you’re from Houston, you throw back.” “Well, I’d keep it as a prized possession.” “I think I’d probably keep it.” “I’d mark it up and throw it back just so nobody could use it.” “I’d give it back to Barry, I’d let Barry enjoy it.” “I’d love to keep it, but if he wanted it I guess I’d have to give it back to him. I wouldn’t sell it. I wouldn’t sell it. Never.”
As for Bonds, he has very little to say about the whole home run ball chase. Earlier this season, he showed no interest in a home run ball a fan caught, but did take a picture with the fan after the game.