Derek Jeter hits his 3,000th hit, a 3rd inning home run on July 9 against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
Here’s a hypothetical situation (everyone loves these, right?):
You have an unlimited payroll. Would you pay more money for a tainted ball that signified the greatest record in baseball history or a ball that represented a personal milestone by one of the greatest players on the greatest franchise in sports history achieved on pure talent alone?
Magic vs Morals. Power vs Consistency. Barry Bonds vs Derek Jeter.
One month ago, Derek Jeter completed the last of the great milestones the most storied sports team in history needed to accomplish. Before Jeter, never did the New York Yankees boast a 3,000 hitter. Sure, guys who have donned Yankees pinstripes accomplished the feat in their careers but none ever did it solely as a Bronx Bomber.
On the other side of the debate, Only two sluggers before Barry Bonds cracked the 700 home run mark and Hank Aaron’s 755 stood (and still does to baseball purists) as the magical home run number many believed would never be touched. That is, until a steroided Bonds broke the record in 2007, topping a mark that stood the test of time for 31 years.
In 2008, Bonds’ 756th home run ball sold for a whopping $752,467 and change at an online auction to Marc Ecko. Last month, the person who caught Jeter’s ball, gave the ball back to the Yankee legend without expecting anything in return. The Captain and the Yanks felt some sort of reward for being the luckiest Yankees fan in their 108-year history was necessary. They offered up tickets for the rest of the season plus playoffs, a boatload of signed memorabilia and the chance to meet Jeter.
Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. But it sparked a debate still simmering to this day on what Christian Lopez, the lucky fan, should have done. Should he have done what he did or should he have milked the richest team in sports for as much as he could, setting himself up financially for a very long time.
Barry Bonds hits his 756th home run on August 7, 2007, breaking Hank Aaron's 31-year record. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
So this is where I finally come to the point of this blog: How much would Lopez have gotten for that ball? Would he have gotten millions? Doubt it. But would he have gotten more than what Bonds’ ball was sold for? That’s where the debate gets tricky.
And unfortunately, we may never know because the ball lies in the rightful owner’s possession and will likely never leave that spot. That is why the debate brought up between me and my one friend, a diehard Yankees fan, was sparked when he said Jeter’s ball would sell more than Bonds’.
So I ask you, is Bonds’ tainted home run ball, the single most important home run ball in baseball history, fetch more money in an auction than Jeter’s very personal milestone which has deep value in Yankees lore?
Personally – though it pains me to say this because I love Jeter – Bonds’ ball would fetch more money in an auction today. The home run record is the most identified stat in all of baseball and it’s significance on the game will forever impact the innocence the game of baseball once stood for.
Bonds’ home run ball rewrote history. Who wouldn’t want to own the one piece of baseball history that has forced us to say, “Hank Aaron is the home run ki… oh yea.” No offense to Jeter but only the fans in New York will remember the impact his hit had in Yankees history as the rest of the baseball world will move on.
When it’s all said and done, Jeter will be 3,000 times more than the man Bonds ever was. But the career defining ball he hit won’t match the one hit by Bonds.