Did We Find The Kirk Gibson Home Run Baseball?
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Last week, upon hearing that an auction featuring many of Kirk Gibson’s items from the 1988 World Series didn’t have his famous home run ball included, we issued an APB for the ball, which has never surfaced in the collecting circles.
We received over 250 e-mails with supposed tips, with 31 people claiming that either they had it or they knew who had it.
Our first dialogue was with a man who told us that “the guy three or four rows in back of us tried to catch it, but it bounced out of his bare hands. It rolled under the seats and my dad picked it up. We were so excited about the homer, so the ball was not a huge deal. We had gotten many balls over the years. My dad gave me the ball when we got home. I put it on my shelf with the others. I still have most of the balls in a box, a dozen or so. One problem: I’m not sure which one is ‘the ball.’ I was 15 at the time and didn’t think about what it was worth.”
The man told us that the ball “may still be in the garage in the bag or a box,” at his mother’s house, but that he wasn’t in a rush to check because he wasn’t looking for fame or fortune.
Next came a note from a man named Darren Weller from Pennsylvania, who told us he was at the game with his dad and had the ball, but would not sell it. He presented us a picture of a 1988 World Series ball signed by the Dodgers team, but beyond that could not present any evidence from that night.
Then there was a guy from Montana who said he had it, but didn’t want his name disclosed.
“I was told about the article on the Internet and decided to turn myself in after all of these years. I am using my son’s e-mail address at the moment as I do not have an e-mail of my own. Twenty two years ago, I was sitting in front of that young lady whose leg was hit. I quickly snatched the ball before anybody noticed me and then I hid it, acting like I was looking just like everyone else. I have kept it hidden, not telling a soul – until now. I believe that this ball has historical significance and therefore will sell the ball for a price. I would not like my name to be released. Just refer to me as ‘Mystery Man’ if you would like. I hope I will not regret this action I have decided to take."
I couldn’t find a phone number for the man and an e-mail of course went unreturned.
Then came the flood of people who knew of a person who had it.
“My good friend’s parents had a baseball displayed in the den,” wrote 19-year-old Gary Brisson. “Every time I asked them where the ball came from, they had a different story. Charles (their son) caught it at a Dodgers game, it was the father’s home run ball he hit in high school, etc. Then one day, I overheard the father telling my friend not to say where the ball came from – the Kirk Gibson home run ball – because if anyone ever knew about the ball, thieves would rob the house and kill them. Pretty scary stuff for a nine-year-old to hear. My friend’s parents have now divorced and no one has seen the ball for quite some time.”
“I was a young Oakland A’s bleacher bum,” wrote another man. “There was a teenager named Brian, I believe. He used to attend games and batting practices with pretty much the sole purpose of catching home run balls. The rumor was that he had gone to LA for the game and had ended up with the ball. He had even made the claim directly in the next year or two before he ‘disappeared’ – I believe he joined the Navy.”
“A college student at Loyola Marymount claimed to have the ball,” wrote Ken Coleman. “My buddies were students there at the time.”
Sargeant William Dumas wrote us to tell us the Dodgers had it. “I visited Dodger Stadium back on August 2, 2010, while on R&R. We were told that the ball was recovered by a security employee and out of good faith returned the ball to Mr. Gibson without asking for any gratuity.”
In the end, there was one story that seemed to stick. It came from a man named Ed Moran, who showed us a video of what we’ve never seen -– apparently following the ball through the crowd and he says, landing in the hands of his uncle Carlos. The Web site includes a picture of Carlos and his niece Jasmine, who Moran says is his sister. The photo is dated “15-10-88,” which would make it the exact night that Gibson hit the ball. The picture shows that the ball is an official “1988 World Series ball" and Moran says he has the original of the photo to prove that nothing was doctored.
Moran says that that night, Carlos, his aunt and his sister went to the game. Carlos, he said, wasn't a baseball fan. In fact, it was his first game. After he caught the ball, Moran says his uncle told him he put the ball in his sock drawer and eventually, since it meant little to him, gave it to a girlfriend. When the 20-year anniversary hit two years ago, Carlos talked to her about the ball, which she said she had in her garage somewhere. He never picked it up.
Did we find the ball? Moran says he spoke to a LA Times writer Bill Plaschke and the Dodgers historian Mark Langill years ago but told but Moran said that "both said this story can't be verified."
Having put out a worldwide All Points Bulletin, I can tell you that this is the best evidence yet. They don't have the stubs, but they have the ball and a dated photo. Is it possible to backdate a photo? Would someone buy a 1988 World Series Ball and hold it up as if it was a prized possession if it really wasn't? I doubt it.
If it this turns out to be a false lead, that’s OK. We’ve tried as hard as we could. At least we think we have have found at least one person in the car whose brakes could be seen in the parking lot beyond Dodgers Stadium when Gibson hit the home run. Take it away, Tommy Allen.
“I don’t have the ball, however, I was the ‘poor sucker’ in the parking lot! I was 14 years old at the time and my dad made me and my brothers leave early to catch a flight back home to Salt Lake. Needless to say, I didn’t talk to my dad for a long time. Of course we joke about it now, but it still hurts when I read articles like yours. Thanks for bringing back the pain!”
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com