SAN FRANCISCO — The feud over Barry Bonds’ historic 73rd home run ball has gone to court, starting a flurry of arguments from both sides about what it means to be a spectator to the great American pastime and whether scuffling over baseballs hit into the stands is just the name of the game.
The debacle started last year when Alex Popov, 38, sued Patrick Hayashi, 37, after Bonds homered on Oct. 7, 2001 to finish the season with 73 home runs. Popov claims he caught the ball but then lost it after he was swarmed by fans at Pacific Bell Park. Hayashi came up with it and was whisked away by security.
“This is about America’s pastime and the dream of catching a ball, his dream turned into a nightmare,” Martin Triano, Popov’s lawyer, said Thursday in opening statements in San Francisco Superior Court.
Triano said Popov’s dream was ruined when, after he caught Bond’s ball, he was knocked over and attacked by San Francisco Giants’ fans, including Hayashi, trying to get the ball.
Hayashi’s lawyer, Michael Lee, said his client never attacked anyone and that scrambling over home run balls is just part of professional baseball’s “fan culture,” which states that a home run ball is fair game until someone has complete control of it.
“When Hayashi reached out and grasped the loose home run ball ... it was entirely fair game,” Lee said. “Now Alex Popov wants to change the rules. He now criticizes the fan culture that he was once a part of.”