Page One

SF judge hears dispute over who owns Bonds baseball

By Justin Pritchard The Associated Press
Saturday September 07, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – As a judge framed it Friday, the lawsuit over who owns Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73rd home run ball boils down to simple definitions: “A catch is a catch – if it’s a catch.” 

Judge James J. McBride’s musings matter because he will decide whether the case goes to trial, or whether one of the men with claims to the million-dollar memento should get it outright. 

After an hour’s worth of arguments Friday, McBride didn’t rule who owns the ball: Alex Popov, the man who gloved it but lost it in a scrum, or Patrick Hayashi, the man who emerged from the tussling tangle with the big grin. 

Though Hayashi initially took it home, the ball has since been placed under lock and key. The judge has 90 days to rule, but won’t likely take that long. 

The case has reached a legal logjam since Oct. 7, when the San Francisco Giants’ slugger whacked the single-season record ball into the bleachers of Pacific Bell Park. Popov says Hayashi is trying to keep what’s not his while Hayashi insists he found the ball on the ground because Popov never caught it. 

Popov’s lawyers asserted it’s indisputable he caught the ball – he had it in his glove and brought it to his chest, they said, before being consumed by what McBride called “a low-grade mosh pit” of fans. 

Hayashi’s lawyers preferred the major league baseball definition of “catch,” which they said proves Popov neither possessed nor owned it.