Opening statements today in Bonds’ ball lawsuit

Daily Planet Wire Services
Wednesday October 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – Opening statements are scheduled to begin today in San Francisco Superior Court in a legal dispute over possession of Giants slugger Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run baseball. 

On Oct. 7, 2001, Bonds swatted the historic home run at Pacific Bell Park. The stroke set the single season home run record. 

Alex Popov of San Francisco said he cleanly gloved the ball and lost it in a violent melee. Patrick Hayashi, 37, who lives in the Sacramento area, ultimately ended up with the baseball. 

Popov, 38, filed suit on Oct. 24, claiming that Hayashi was among a group of people who attacked him after he made the catch in an effort to wrest the ball from his control. Hayashi has said he was simply “in the right place at the right time.’’ 

A judge has since dismissed claims of assault and battery from the lawsuit. The core issue, specifically whether Popov gained “unequivocal dominion and control’’ of the ball, is a legitimate issue for trial, the court ruled. 

Popov’s attorneys have asked that a judge hear the case rather than a jury. A possible court trial before Judge Kevin M. McCarthy could last two to three weeks, attorneys said. 

McCarthy said the first witnesses could be called as early as Thursday afternoon. 

The disputed baseball, which could be worth a reported $1 million, is currently being held in a safe-deposit box, with the court in possession of the keys.