The final out

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Thanks to a heads up from MRhé… and since I don’t particularly care about the Patriots being in the playoffs, I’ll say something about it.
The front page of The New York Times (subscription needed) had an article about Doug Mientkiewicz and the ball that made the final out of the 2004 World Series. It seems that Doug kept the ball, which is currently in a safe-deposit box in Miami, but now the Red Sox want it. The spokesman for Major League Baseball says Mientkiewicz owns the ball. The spokesman for the Red Sox says the team owns it — and of course he would say that.
It sounds like Doug is willing to have the ball displayed, as long as he can continue to own it. And there is some precedence there — Cal Ripken Jr still owns the baseball he caught to end the 1983 series, but it resides at the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore. Granted, he’s Cal Ripken Jr and Doug Mientkiewicz is, well… not. But why give different rights to superstars and legends? After all, in 1983, Ripken hadn’t yet saved baseball from a post-strike decline and Lou Gehrig’s record wasn’t even close to being broken. On the other hand, it does seem a little unfair to Boston that a guy who only played for the team for half the season and who’s future with the organization is unclear gets to own the ball. But hey, he caught it and the MLB says that he owns it so it’s up to him to determine its fate. Besides, I have a soft spot for first basemen who played in Minnesota and relocated to Boston — after all, I was one, along with Doug, David Ortiz, and David McCarty.
And speaking of Minnesota first basemen, that brings me to my favorite part of the article — Kent Hrbek. It seems fairly obvious that part of what the Times did in researching the story was to look up the fate of every World Series-ending baseball caught on the field in the past twenty years. And most get a brief paragraph or just a mention that so-and-so couldn’t be reached for comment. But the fate of the 1987 ball got quite a bit of coverage and plenty of quotes from one of my all time favorite Minnesota Twins, Hrbie, who incidently thinks that Mientkiewicz should run and hide and/or give the ball back. And I can just picture Hrbek, taking a break from ice fishing to talk to the New York Times, delighted to chat with the reporter. That man has had quite the life — growing up blocks from old Met Stadium, getting drafted by his home town team, winning two World Series, and retiring in Minnesota so that he can continue to just hang out and fish. And occasionally talk to newspapers who remember what a big hero he once was. He just makes me smile.

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