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Fate of Bonds’ historic ball in hands of fans

Fashion designer Marc Ecko spent $752,467 to buy Barry Bonds’ record 756th home-run ball, and now he wants baseball fans everywhere to decide what to do with it.

Ecko is offering three choices: Donate it as is to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.; brand it with an asterisk and donate it to the Hall of Fame; or put it on a rocket and blast it into space.

“I wanted the ball to democratize the ball and to give the ball to the people, to give the ball to America,” Ecko told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer during an exclusive interview Monday.

Ecko set up a Web page, www.vote756.com, that allows fans to vote for one of the three options. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and Ecko will announce which option won exclusively on TODAY.

Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run record on Aug. 7 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Matt Murphy, a New Yorker who had stopped in San Francisco on his way to a vacation in Australia, caught the ball.

In an appearance on TODAY the next morning, Murphy, a rabid Mets fan, said he was leaning toward keeping the ball, but he ultimately decided to sell it online through Sotheby’s auction house.

Ecko, a former graffiti artist from Lakewood, N.J., founded his own clothing line in 1993 when he was just 20 years old and has grown it into a company that does a billion dollars’ worth of business annually.

Money no object
Memorabilia experts had estimated that the Bonds ball would sell for around half a million dollars, but Ecko, who put in four or five bids during the closing hours of the auction, which ended Saturday, told Lauer price was no object.

Brad Barket / Getty Images North America
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 9: Designer Marc Echo attends the private screening of "Toots" after party at the Tribeca Grill on September 9, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Marc Echo

“I was committed,” he said. “I was going to bid whatever it took to get the ball. I wanted the ball, I had the means and I was prepared to get the ball.”

A sports fan who describes himself as being “into American culture,” Ecko said letting the public decide what to do with the iconic baseball just made sense.

“I thought it would be interesting to have a pop culture moment together,” he told Lauer.

If the public decides to brand the ball, he said he would use a branding iron to burn an asterisk into it before personally driving to Cooperstown to hand-deliver it to the Hall of Fame.

The asterisk would symbolize the widely held belief that Bonds achieved his record with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

The idea of putting a footnote on a home-run record originated in 1961 when Roger Maris needed 162 games to break Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season record of 60 home runs that had been set in 154 games.

Ecko was the first to register his vote on vote756.com.

“I voted for the asterisk,” he told Lauer. But, he added, “at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.”

It’s not about what he feels, but about the collective consciousness of America, Ecko explains.

In an off-air interview with TODAY, Ecko said the idea to let the public decide what to do with the ball is in keeping with the culture of the times.

“This is like ‘American Idol’ except for baseball. Let Sanjaya vote!” Ecko said.

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