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Friday, October 20, 2006
Give Maggs the Ball

Jon Fenlon, a 23-year-old Eastern Michigan University student, won’t give to Magglio Ordonez (or the Baseball Hall of Fame) the ball Ordonez hit into the stands to clinch the pennant for the Tigers in the ninth inning of Game Four. According to published reports:
The day after Fenlon snatched the homer, he told the Detroit Free Press: "I hope Magglio doesn't want it back. I'm not sure what I'll do if that happens." Well, it has happened. Ordonez already gave the Hall of Fame his bat, and he has offered Fenlon one of his bats in exchange for the ball. But Fenlon is between a rock and a hard ball.

"Oh man, I don't know," Fenlon said. "I don't know if I'm ready to give it back. I'll have to think about it."
Although the Hall of Fame wants the ball, they won’t pay for it:
Brad Horn, communications director for the hall of fame, confirmed that museum officials had requested Ordonez's bat. He said they would take the ball, if it were offered, but they didn't plan to go after it.

"The story is told through both the bat and the ball," Horn said. "We would never want to take the ball from a fan" unless the fan volunteered to hand it over.
The issue of home-run ball ownership is one of the first things that piqued my intellectual interest in sports law; previously, it surfaced in a published decision, Popov v. Hayashi, concerning Barry Bonds’s record setting ball, and in a dispute between the Red Sox and Doug Mientkiewicz, which Mike blogged about here. In a piece published on Findlaw’s Writ, I argued that ownership of a homerun ball – particularly one of historical significance (and therefore significant value), should rest with the player who batted the ball. The player is the one who has a moral claim to the ball, having through his labor added value to what would otherwise have none. Moreover, awarding a claim to a fan creates dangerous incentives for fans to engage in violent conduct to get their hands on a potentially valuable piece of baseball memorabilia.

Fenlon, of course, is far more sympathetic than either of the litigants in Popov v. Hayashi or late-inning Red Sox replacement Mientkiewicz. A lifelong Tigers fan, he has so far expressed no interest in profiting off the ball; rather, he seems to want to keep the ball for sentiment's sake. Still, I think Maggs has the best moral claim for ownership, and the law should reflect that.


Why not - like Solomon and the baby, like the endless splinters of the True Cross - cut the ball in two? Give half to the Hall of Fame, and let the kid keep the other.

Unlike the baby Solomon targeted for splitting, the ball could well survive the process. It's not like the ball is going to be used again, is it?

Anonymous Collin -- 10/20/2006 7:02 PM  

That ball belongs to Jon Fenlon and there should be absolutely no litigation regarding its owner. A Solomonic decision won't cut the ice. JON, as I have told you in not a few, hang on to that previous gift the angels directed towards you.IT'S YOURS TO HAVE AND TO HOLD.

Anonymous Rev. Richard M. Mackowski, s.j. -- 10/22/2006 12:28 PM  

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Blogger M Jackson -- 10/25/2006 7:28 PM  

If you try to make the case (which I don't agree with) that the player has ownership of it because his effort put value behind it... then the player would also be liable for damages incurred by said fan in the event that a bat/ball impacts a fan.
You might argue back that the fan releases all liablity by the purchase of the ticket and assumes all risk (which is also bunk), but that is only to the stadium and team owners.

To take it an extra length, who would Chicago fan Bret Bartman owe damages to for trespassing when he interupted play of the homerun/or fielded ball during the playoffs.

I think that in the end... street rules apply -- "Finder's Keeper's... Loosers Pay"

Blogger M Jackson -- 10/25/2006 7:31 PM  

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