From the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy :
.Doug Mientkiewicz has the ball. The Red Sox want it back. Stay tuned.
Certainly you know which ball we’re talking about. By now you’ve seen the video a couple million times.
Edgar Renteria hits a hard hopper bound for center field. Keith Foulke raises his arms, snags the ball, then trots toward first base — just to be safe. After seven or eight steps, Foulke underhands the ball to Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918. It is the Boston sports equivalent of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. Small steps for Foulke. A giant leap for Red Sox Nation.
What happened to the baseball that ended 86 years of Red Sox frustration?
“I’ve got it,” Mientkiewicz said from his Miami home Wednesday. “It’s in a safety-deposit box with my Olympic gold medal [Sydney, 2000]. We had it authenticated by Major League Baseball the day after the World Series so no one can claim they have it. That’s my retirement fund. A guy offered me 500 bucks for it, but I think it’s worth more than that.”
Not so fast, Doug.
“We’re going to make a request of him to return it to us,” Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said late last night. “We want it to be part of Red Sox archives or museums so it can be shared with the fans. We would hope he would understand the historical nature of it.”
There some confusion regarding legal ownership of the ball. Is possession nine-10ths of the law?
Carmine Tiso, spokesman for MLB, said, “Doug Mientkiewicz owns the baseball and we authenticated it. Anything beyond that would be between the Red Sox and Doug Mientkiewicz.”
Joe Januszewski, Red Sox director of corporate partnerships, said, “I believe we own the ball, though I don’t know of any precedent for a team saying we need it back. Like, `Hey, Doug, we’d like to have that for our museum.’ I’m sure ownership would treat that delicately . . . It could be Doug’s lasting legacy as a member of the Red Sox.”
Mientkiewicz did little to deserve his position as trustee. Like a woman who walks into a department store and wins a grand prize because she is the store’s 1 millionth customer, Mientkiewicz’s good fortune was quite inadvertent. He played for the Sox for fewer than three months and batted a mere .215 in 49 games with Boston. He won’t go down in Sox history as a pivotal player in the championship run. He was simply the man who filled in as a defensive replacement in the late innings. (Kevin Millar and David Ortiz must wish they’d worked harder on their glove game.)
Lucchino said, “This is a gray area as to what players think they can take with them. We’re going to ask Doug for the ball. I think it would be a nice gesture on his part to return it to Red Sox Nation.”
Indeed, it would be a grand gesture — a potential million-dollar gift — from a player who might be traded by the Red Sox at any moment.
But does it truly belong to him?
Mientkiewicz could not be reached for comment last night after Lucchino indicated the club’s request, but on Wednesday the first baseman left no doubt that he believes the ball belongs to him.
“I know this ball has a lot of sentimental value,” he said. “I hope I don’t have to use it for the money. It would be cool if we have kids someday to have it stay in our family for a long time. But I can be bought. I’m thinking, there’s four years at Florida State for one of my kids. At least.
Seems to me the Red Sox are holding the hammer in this exchange. If they determine that this ball has more historical value than say, the World Series trophy they’re currently parading around every town in New England, ala the Stanley Cup, there are all kinds of ways they can lean on Mientkiewicz. Threaten to trade him to Tampa. Maybe send their first baseman to their NY-Penn league affiliate in Lowell to rehab an unspecified injury.