Mr. Ecko sells shirts so we didn't expect that he'd be a great diplomat. But the parties worked it out anyway and.... the ball goes to the hall.
Deal Struck as Hall Receives Home Run Ball Hit by Bonds
By JACK CURRY
After a day of disparate explanations from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the man who owns Barry Bonds’s record-setting 756th home run ball, the controversial ball was driven to Cooperstown, N.Y., on Tuesday. It arrived around 7:45 p.m.
When discussions between Marc Ecko, the fashion designer who purchased the ball in an online auction for $752,467, stalled on Tuesday, the Hall issued a statement saying that Ecko had changed his mind about donating the ball, which he had marked with an asterisk.
“The owner’s previous commitment to unconditionally donate the baseball has changed to a loan,” the Hall said. “As a result, the Hall of Fame will not accept the baseball.”
But a few hours after the Hall’s statement, Ecko issued one of his own in which he said that he was “surprised” by the Hall’s stance. Ecko did not address whether he sought to adjust his donation to a loan and said that the “only open issue” was whether the Hall would be comfortable displaying the ball.
For the last nine months, the Hall has repeatedly said it would display the ball that Ecko intentionally defaced because it represents a memorable moment in history. Brad Horn, the Hall’s senior director for communications and education, said the museum planned to display the ball after it was received as an unconditional donation. And now that has happened.
“It’s being given as a donation,” said Laurie Baker, Ecko’s spokeswoman, who added that Ecko had always planned to donate it. “The ball is in a car.”
Baker said Ecko’s personal driver delivered the ball to Horn in Cooperstown. She said an asterisk was laser-cut into the ball above the Major League logo by a master engraver and that the ball was delivered in a specially designed glass case. The case includes the details of how Ecko decided to plant an asterisk on the ball.
After Ecko bought the ball, he held an online contest to determine its future. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. The first two choices included the addendum that the ball would be donated to the Hall. Since Bonds has been suspected of using steroids to inflate his home run total, the notion of adding an asterisk was often mentioned.
Almost half of the 10 million votes said Ecko should affix an asterisk. In an interview last September, Ecko said the ball was “an artifact worth keeping at the Hall of Fame” and that he “always wanted” to see it there. Still, it took a stern, unexpected statement from the Hall to get the ball out of Ecko’s hands, into Ecko’s car and toward the museum.
“At this time, the ball is on route to the Hall of Fame,” Ecko said in his statement. “I hope that they will accept it and honor their commitment to display it at some point in time.”
Baker said Ecko’s desire was to ensure that fans “who helped put the ball into Cooperstown” would see it when they visited the museum. Although the ball is in a case, Baker says Ecko understands the Hall may remove it and display it as it sees fit.
Horn said that the museum was adamant about accepting donations instead of loans and that virtually all of the 35,000 artifacts were permanent. If the Hall needs an artifact to fill a void in an important story, it occasionally accepts loaned items. For example, Willie Mays loaned his glove from his over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series because the Hall did not have items from that Series.
Because Bonds donated his helmets from his 755th and 756th homers, Horn said Bonds’s story of surpassing Hank Aaron’s career home run mark was told without the record-setting ball. “That moment is represented,” Horn said.
Now it will be represented even more.