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A San Francisco judge on Wednesday ordered that Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73rd home run ball be sold and that its two claimants split the money. Superior Court Judge Kevin McCarthy ruled that both Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi had legitimate rights to the ball. But neither was entitled to it. “Neither can present a superior argument as against the other,” McCarthy held. “The ball must be sold and the proceeds divided equally between the parties.” Estimates have put the value of the ball at between $1 million and $3 million. His ruling was unsatisfying to both men, who expected a definitive ruling of who owns the ball that Bonds hit into Pacific Bell Park’s right field arcade on Oct. 7, 2001. Lawyers for both were uncertain whether they would appeal before proceeding with the sale. The ball remains in a safe deposit box and the court has the key. Alex Popov, a Berkeley natural foods restaurateur, reached for the home run ball, snagged it in the webbing of his glove and then disappeared in a mob of other fans. A television station tape shows that he held it for at least six-tenths of a second. Patrick Hayashi, a former Silicon Valley computer engineer, was nearby and also pushed to ground by the same mob, but eventually emerged with the prized baseball. The judge ruled that Popov had not established full possession by a preponderance of the evidence. “We will never know if Mr. Popov would have been able to retain control of the ball had the crowd not interfered with his efforts to do so,” McCarthy wrote. “Resolution of that question is the work of a psychic, not a judge.” But that finding, McCarthy continued, did not resolve the case. “The reason we do not know,” he continued, “… is not because of incidental contact. It is because he was attacked. His efforts to establish possession were interrupted by the collective assault of a band of wrongdoers.” McCarthy emphasized that Hayashi had not joined in the assault. “He committed no wrongful act,” McCarthy said. Ultimately, McCarthy concluded that Popov had established a legally cognizable pre-possessory interest in the property. “At the time Mr. Hayashi came into possession of the ball, it had, in effect, a cloud on its title,” McCarthy wrote. “Their legal claims are of equal quality and they are equally entitled to the ball.”

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