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Record-breaking Bonds ball nets $752,467

Sunday, September 16, 2007

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Barry Bonds' No. 756 sold for $752,467. Associated Press ... Matt Murphy, the 22-year-old Mets fan who caught Barry Bo... Matt Murphy, the 22-year-old Mets fan who caught Barry Bo... New Yorker Matt Murphy, who ended up with Barry Bonds' re...

(09-15) 14:14 PDT San Francisco -- The winning bid on Saturday night for Giants slugger Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run ball was $752,467, well above expectations, while the shot to tie Hank Aaron's career record sold for $186,750.

The prices included the required 20 percent buyer's premium, added to the final bid. There were 11 bids on home run ball No. 755, which Bonds hit on Aug. 4, and 31 bids on the record-setter.

The final price for 755 was only slightly below the $200,000 many memorabilia experts had expected.

But the big prize was the record-breaker, and bidders had their checkbooks out for the ball that Matt Murphy, a contract supervisor from New York, plucked out of the stands at AT&T Park on Aug. 7.

A slow start to the bidding, which began Aug. 28, had naysayers suggesting that Bonds' links to baseball's steroids scandal, as well as his less-than-sunny personality, would keep the price of the record-breaking ball down. Experts expected the ball to bring $500,000. But bids had reached $301,625 by the 1 p.m. end of the initial phase of the online auction.

Anyone who cast one of 16 bids in the first part of the auction was allowed to boost the offer in the extended auction, which continued until 3 p.m.

But even that didn't mark the end. Under rules set by Sotheby's-SCP Auctions, the Mission Viejo auction house, the bidding continued after 3 p.m., going on until no one increased the offer for at least 30 minutes. Each time a new bid was made, that 30-minute countdown clock was reset.

The clock ran down to 7 seconds at 4:20 p.m., when a bidder jumped in with $467,918. At 6 p.m., there was about a minute left when a bid for $627,056 was recorded.

There was a lot less suspense for home run ball No. 755. There was only a single winning bid made after the 3 p.m. close, one of 11 offers.

"I had hoped to keep the ball, but when I determined that was not the best strategy at this stage of my life, this definitely was the right decision," Murphy, 21, said in a statement released after the sale. "It is an honor to be a part of baseball history, and I wish the new owner well with whatever they elect to do with the ball."

Auction officials did not release the names of the buyers of either ball, saying they had not yet had time to consult with them about whether they wanted to go public. SCP Auctions managing director Dan Imler also would not disclose the way the money would be split between Murphy and SCP.

Many memorabilia dealers believe the really big price will be for Bonds' final home run, which will represent baseball's career home run record, at 762 and counting.

When it comes to sports records, however, there are never guarantees. When St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire shattered the single-season home run record by slamming 70 in 1998, cartoonist Todd McFarlane paid $3 million for the ball, figuring the record could stand as long as the one Roger Maris set in 1961.

Bad call. Three years later, Bonds hit 73 home runs, sending the value of McGwire's ball plummeting.

Chronicle staff writer Tyche Hendricks and the Associated Press contributed to this report. E-mail John Wildermuth at jwildermuth@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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