Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 24 News List

Boston Red Sox push Mientkiewicz to give up baseball

AP , BOSTON

The Red Sox have the title. Now they want the ball.

Backup first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz caught the ball for the final out of the World Series, ending Boston's 86-year championship drought.

He then put the souvenir in a safe deposit box. Only one problem: The Red Sox say the ball should be in their hands.

The player who didn't join the team until July 31 still wants to keep it but recognizes its meaning to the team's passionate rooters -- a prize that completed a four-game sweep of St. Louis and ended the misery.

"Of course I want Red Sox fans to see the ball," Mientkiewicz said in a call to WEEI radio. "The main reason why I hung on to the darn thing is because I want people to see it."

John Henry, the team's principal owner, spoke with Mientkiewicz on Friday after Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the ball should be given to the club.

"We didn't discuss solutions," Henry said in an e-mail Friday night to AP. "Larry had already spoken publicly regarding what our position was. I just wanted to listen to what [Mientkiewicz's] feelings were with regard to all of this. I have a great deal of respect for Doug."

Mientkiewicz said Friday he had a "nice conversation" with Henry.

Lucchino had said he planned to ask Mientkiewicz to give the ball to the team.

"We want it to be part of Red Sox archives or museums so it can be shared with the fans," Lucchino told The Boston Globe. "We would hope he would understand the historical nature of it."

Lucchino did not return an e-mail requesting comment. Messages left at the homes of Mientkiewicz and his father were not returned and a woman who came to the door at his Coral Gables, Florida, house said he wasn't there.

In an era rife with memorabilia sellers and collectors -- the New England Patriots once sold jars of dirt for US$10 from Foxboro Stadium before it was torn down after the 2001 season -- such an historic baseball might command hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

After all, on the very day Mientkiewicz squeezed the final out in his glove, the ball Barry Bonds hit for his 700th home run brought a top bid of US$804,129 after a 10-day online auction.

Mientkiewicz said the ball he caught was "my retirement fund," the Globe reported. On Friday, he said he was kidding.

"If Mr. Lucchino wants to talk to me about the ball personally, he has my phone number. He can call me," Mientkiewicz said on WEEI.

Mientkiewicz, unhappy as a part-time player last season, is set to make US$3.75 million in the final year of his two-year contract. The team has an option to renew it at US$4 million for 2006 but has said it intends to trade Mientkiewicz or its other first baseman, Kevin Millar, before spring training.

Mike Martin coached Mientkiewicz at Florida State from 1993-1995 and is convinced the player won't sell the ball for personal gain.

"There's not a selfish bone in the guy's body," said Martin, in his 26th year as head coach of the Seminoles. "He was one of the most popular players to ever play here. He also was a guy who was a fan favorite in Minnesota. He's also very community oriented and I'm sure that's the case in the city of Boston."

The Red Sox obtained the slick-fielding Mientkiewicz in a trade deadline deal with the Twins. He was a late-inning replacement in each of the four World Series games after being a starter for the previous three seasons.

This story has been viewed 4305 times.
TOP top