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Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2001

Bonds negotiating for 500th home run ball

April 19, 2001

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— Joe Figone landed a whopper when he snagged Barry Bonds' 500th home run from the San Francisco Bay.

Figone, in his inflatable power boat, sped to where the ball splashed down in McCovey Cove on Tuesday night. Armed with a hand-held fishing net, he deftly scooped it up.

Bonds became the 17th major leaguer to hit 500 homers in his career with his eighth-inning blast that gave the San Francisco Giants a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Afterward, Bonds said he was "negotiating" with Figone over the ball.

Figone, a city parks employee and former groundskeeper for Giants' previous home, Candlestick Park, said the ball is already tucked away in a safe deposit box.

"The Giants are talking with me," he said. "And I expect we'll continue talking."

The issue is not necessarily money. Figone seemed stunned Wednesday that he got the ball.

"I just really want to sit back and enjoy it for a while," he said.

It was the second historic ball Figone has fished out of the bay. He hooked the first-ever splash hit over the right-field wall at Pacific Bell Park, also by Bonds, on May 1, 2000. He still has that ball, too.

Tuesday night's game was the first Figone has attended albeit by boat this season.

"I thought the first ball was enough," he said. "Who would have guessed that I would get Barry Bonds' 500th, too?"

The value of Bonds' home run ball is anyone's guess, although some have said it's worth up to $500,000, the sum that Eddie Murray's 500th home run in 1996 fetched.

But Bill Mastro, CEO of sports memorabilia auctioneer MastroNet, Inc., said there are many factors that determine an article's worth, including the current market, the intent of the potential bidder and the profile of the player.

"It makes it very difficult to say what it's worth," he said.

The bottom line, he said, is what the market will bear, Murray's ball being a case in point.

"No one in the world thought that ball was worth a half a million dollars," he said.

Figone didn't want to talk about the monetary value the ball might have.

"I don't know. There sure are a lot of people throwing estimates at me," he said. "I've never done anything like this before."

Former Giant Willie McCovey, who watched as Bonds nailed No. 500, said all of his significant home runs were retrieved by catcher Mike Sadek. McCovey is tied with Ted Williams for 11th on the all-time list at 521 home runs, and his 500th is now at Cooperstown.

Willie Mays, Bonds' godfather, hit 660 home runs and ranks third behind Hank Aaron with 755, and Babe Ruth with 714.

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