No matter the state of Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball – pearly white, asterisk-marked or blown to smithereens – the National Baseball Hall of Fame will happily accept and display it.
Hall of Fame vice president Jeff Idelson said Thursday that he would like to see the ball come to the Hall unscathed, though he understands entrepreneur Marc Ecko can do with No. 756 what he pleases after winning it at auction for more than $750,000. If Ecko's goal is to "democratize" the ball by allowing fans to vote whether to "bestow, brand or banish" it, Idelson eagerly awaits the results.
"You hate to see such an important piece of baseball history be marred in any way," said Idelson, who met with Ecko on Tuesday. "By the same token, because it's such an important part of the game, we'd love to have the ball in Cooperstown. Any way you slice it, it's a very telling artifact."
And, much like the man who hit it, a polarizing one.
Since Ecko went on the "Today Show" to announce his plans for the ball Monday, Bonds has called him "stupid … an idiot," fans have created sites mocking Ecko and the owner of Bonds' record-tying 755th home run, Ben Padnos, has launched a site similar to Ecko's – with a live voting tracker.
Currently, around 7,000 people on Padnos' site have voted to "save it," while more than 16,000 clicked the other choice, "smash it."
The choices on Ecko's vote, which ends Tuesday, are even more dramatic: Voters can choose to give the ball to Cooperstown, burn into it an asterisk that would signify the questions about Bonds' alleged steroid use or launch it into space and blow it to oblivion with a rocket ship.
Really, a rocket ship.
"As caretakers and historians of the game, destroying any artifact to us is sacrilegious," Idelson said. "But if the ball gets blasted into space, that morning I will be standing outside the Baseball Hall of Fame with a glove hoping to catch it."
- Marc Ecko
- National Baseball Hall of Fame