The case is Popov v. Hayashi, 400545. At stake is an estimated $1-2 million. Hanging in the balance is the baseball that Barry Bonds hit for his record-breaking 73rd home run this year.
It is sickening how litigation-happy our society has become. A scramble beyond the ballpark on Oct. 7 resulted in two men claiming ownership of the coveted baseball. Alex Popov apparently caught the baseball on that fateful day but as fans piled on top of him, Patrick Hayashi arose from the pile with the ball in his hand. Both Popov and Hayashi quickly hired lawyers and the ownership dispute is headed to court.
As Hayashi's attorney said, "This is a free country. Anybody can sue." And therein lies the problem. Maybe legal action is the only way to resolve similar disagreements. But if that's the case, then we've arrived at a sad state in this great nation.
Like King Solomon, maybe the courts should divide the ball into two equal parts and see what the value of that precious item truly is. That probably would serve both parties right. Given the changing nature of baseball, the home run record may well not last as long as the court action will take. It would be poetic justice were that to happen.
If Popov says the baseball is his, then Hayashi should be charged with grand larceny. Doesn't that make sense? It seems to me that both men didn't grab the ball out of the air simultaneously so one is the owner and one the thief.
Maybe the only way to end such legal action is for professional baseball to offer a set amount (say $5,000) for any souvenir baseball they deem appropriate to retain in the Hall of Fame. That might eliminate the rush of litigation when similar milestones occur.
Wouldn't it be nice if the person who caught the baseball returned it to Bonds. Then Bonds would give the fan some autographs, have their picture taken together, get a front row ticket for opening day, etc. And Bonds could turn the baseball over to the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately we now have a new American pastime. Lawsuits!