Allegations of steroid use may be making San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds' life miserable, but two St. Louisans hope Bonds' pain will be their gain. Steven DeRossett, age 26, and his friend James Plemmons, who's 25, say they paid $1,500 for the ball Bonds hit for his 670th home run after seeing it advertised on craigslist.com in San Francisco. Then they put it up for auction at eBay, expecting to turn a handsome profit.
Why 670? While the home run, smacked May 26, 2004, off visiting Arizona Diamondbacks hurler Casey Daigle, doesn't embody any typical baseball milestone, it traveled 460 feet, making it one of the most prodigious blasts Bonds has ever launched at AT&T (formerly Pacific Bell) Park. And it was hit just a few months after Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, and Bonds' personal nutritionist and Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) founder, Victor Conte, were indicted on federal charges of distributing steroids. (Both pled guilty and served brief prison sentences; Conte denies he ever supplied Bonds with the juice.)
"We call it the BALCO ball," DeRossett explains.
Conventional wisdom says the scandal will hurt the value of Bonds' balls, but Plemmons and DeRossett thought outside the box and gave Conte a call.
"He agreed to sign that baseball for us, but at the last second his attorney told him not to," recounts DeRossett, who works in the insurance industry and lives in Affton. Instead Conte sent them his John Hancock, which the guys have framed alongside a picture of the lab, to be bundled in with the purchase of the baseball.
The twosome say they "pissed off" eBay late last month by auctioning their ball at the same time as the heavily promoted sale of the sphere that vaulted Bonds past Babe Ruth. (Last week, the 715 ball went for $220,100.) They described the merchandise as "670, not 715." Within 24 hours bids climbed to $6,100 and eBay pulled the plug, citing "keyword spamming."
"When you put words in the description of your item, they have to be related to your item," says eBay spokeswoman Catherine England. "So if you're not selling number 715 and you include that in the title of your item just to divert attention we don't allow that."
Undeterred, DeRossett and Plemmons bundled their ball and signature with a commemorative pin celebrating Bonds' 715th home run. Again eBay canceled the auction, citing keyword spamming.
A third pitch offered the ball and signature without mentioning "715." But eBay immediately canceled the auction.
eBay's Catherine England declines to comment on strike three, citing privacy issues. Plemmons, though, thinks he knows what's behind it.
"There was a Ted Williams ball that I sold a long time ago, that somebody from [a] Ted Williams society said wasn't real," says Plemmons, a communications consultant who lives in Arnold. "I bought it on eBay and I was just flipping it. They suspended my account because they said it wasn't real."
Last week Plemmons and DeRossett attempted to take their business elsewhere. Sotheby's turned them down. Overstock .com summarily canceled their submission, deeming it "inappropriate," according to Plemmons, who theorizes, "I think they think any link to BALCO is bad."
At press time, the pair was attempting to sell 670 on a site called Memory Lane Inc. They hope to fetch $15,000. Not that they won't be willing to settle for less.
"At this point, we just need to move it," says Plemmons. "It's becoming a big hassle. We're trying to collect more memorabilia, and we can't even get rid of the ball now. It's making me a little nervous."