Brouhaha over Ken Griffey Jr.'s historic 600th HR still rages along
MIAMI — Justin Kimball says he never wanted 15 minutes of this kind of fame.
25-year-old aspiring musician bought a ticket - Section 130, Row 8,
Seat 23 - for the Florida Marlins' game with the Cincinnati Reds on
Monday night, hoping for that once-in-a-lifetime brush with history. He
was in the right-field seats, envisioning that Ken Griffey Jr., one of
his boyhood idols, would hit career home run No. 600 into his waiting
Kimball says the miracle happened.
His lawyers have nine witnesses saying the same.
But the Marlins say his recollection isn't true, and video replays don't conclusively support the claim, either.
here we go again: The rights to yet another historic baseball - like
the one Barry Bonds hit for his 73rd home run in 2001 and Bonds' 762nd
career homer last year - will likely be decided in a courtroom.
a bizarre tale of a singer and his wool hat, a man in a Sergio Mitre
replica jersey who only goes by "Joe," grainy replays that seem to
prove nothing, along with claims of foul, thievery and dishonesty.
"It's all really weird," Kimball said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It makes me sick to my stomach."
has filed suit in Miami-Dade County court, alleging, among other
things, that "Joe" - identified as "John Doe, an individual a/k/a Joe
and any party in control or possession of (the) Ken Griffey Jr. 600th
home run baseball" - committed civil theft and civil battery against
Oh, and as if this all wasn't enough drama, the story got
more odd Thursday: Kimball's side also says people - they weren't
identified - at the stadium informed their office that the infamous
"Joe" struck again Wednesday night, and wrestled Dan Uggla's
game-ending grand slam away from a woman whose hands were on that ball,
"This guy is apparently a magnet," said Robert Zarco, one of the lawyers representing Kimball for free.
president David Samson said "Joe," who Samson said has authorized him
to speak on his behalf, did not catch the Uggla ball.
But whether "Joe" caught it or not, Uggla left the stadium with his grand slam ball Wednesday.
Griffey - who wants his 600th - wasn't so lucky Monday, and Kimball wishes that wasn't the case.
client really wants to get Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball, his baseball,
for free," Zarco said. "This isn't about money. I do not want any
indication at all that there is any kind of desire or attempt that I'm
a greedy lawyer looking for money. I am not."
Kimball says he isn't, either.
"It'd be dirty money," Kimball said.
Miami-Dade court did not rule on Kimball's request for a temporary
restraining order Thursday. The court could, in theory, block "Joe"
from doing anything with the ball, but Samson said the man is not
deterred by the legal issue.
"He did not indicate he is in any
way concerned," Samson said. "When you're right and telling the truth,
it's hard to be concerned."
Samson knows "Joe," whom he
identified as a long-time season-ticket holder, from various team
events. Samson has spoken with "Joe" at least three times about the
man's options, most recently Thursday, when Samson provided the man
with a frame-by-frame tape that purportedly shows "Joe" catching the
Samson added that he wants the ball "somehow, someway to
get back to Ken Griffey," and that his involvement is merely to help
out a season-ticket holder. Earlier this week, Samson said anyone who
claims "Joe" did not catch the ball is "misinformed and dishonest," an
assertion that didn't sit well with Kimball.
dishonest has really been eating at me," Kimball said. "There's a lot
of people that saw me catch the ball. ... I wish this all would go
away. I didn't want this. I just want it to be over with."
said he grew up in Minnesota a huge Twins fan. He remembers going to
the Metrodome to see the Seattle Mariners, back when that lineup
featured Griffey and Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson.
And as a third-grader, he said he bought a book from his school's
reading club about baseball - one with Griffey on the cover.
He has some Kirby Puckett memorabilia in his collection, some Dan Marino autographs and even a signed Mickey Mantle ball.
none of that is associated with any sort of milestone," Kimball said.
"My intention with the ball is just to get it back to Griffey. I don't
want any money. I don't want anything. And I don't understand how so
much animosity can come toward me from my favourite baseball team, when
all I want is what's best for the game."
Kimball cannot explain
why video doesn't support his claim, that the ball was in his wool cap
and "Joe" ripped it away, scratching his arms and legs in an ensuing
scrum. He simply says that the video doesn't prove anything said by
either side, calling it "all inconclusive."
His original court
filing on Wednesday - it was slightly amended Thursday - asked a court
to bar whomever has the 600th homer ball from selling it until the
ownership issue can be resolved. Memorabilia experts say the ball could
fetch $50,000 to $100,000 at auction.
"In reality, the ball should go to the guy who hit it, not the guy who caught it," Zarco said. "Shouldn't it?"