08/10/2002 04:00 am ET
Ugly scrum breaks out for No. 600
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Barry Bonds connected on his 600th career home run, he stood at home plate watching the flight of the ball and had but one thought in his mind.
"I knew it was gone when I hit it," he said. "I was just hoping that no one got hurt trying to get it. I was so happy, I was just praying that no one got hurt fighting for it."
That's one dream that did not come true for Bonds.
The ball initially hit off the headset of center field cameraman Mike Bird, whose job was to have the tight shot on Bonds' face when he drilled the historic homer.
"I had no idea until it was 10 feet away that it was coming at me," said Bird, who made no attempt at catching it before it slammed off the tower behind him and ricocheted into the bleachers in left center field.
That's where thousands of people were sitting, having spent $12 on a seat that, for all intents and purposes, was a lottery ticket for a payoff estimated in the low- to mid-six-figure range.
As the ball soared through the air, it was snared by the right hand of a carpenter from Vacaville, Calif., named Jay Arsenault. After that, it got ugly.
"I can't really remember much about it," said Arsenault, a Giants fan for 10 years who sits regularly in those seats but had never before caught a home run ball. "People were trying to kill me for it."
Several eyewitnesses said that Paul Campbell, a Pirates fan who resides in San Francisco, also had his hands on the ball but did not have control.
"The two of us were holding the ball but the guy really looked insane," said Campbell, who had blood stains on his shirt that were not his own. "Both of us had our hands on it but there was a lot of mayhem, a lot of pushing and a lot manhandling. He was bloody and screaming like he was insane.
"My life means more to me than a baseball."
Jorge Costa, the Giants' Senior Vice President of Ballpark Operations heard rumors of people allegedly being bit but was not been able to confirm those reports. Regardless of what actually happened, it was clear that a rugby-like scrum had broken out in an attempt to grab the ball, despite increased security efforts. Costa said no additional officers were hired, but those that were on-site were deployed to the outfield areas for each of Bonds' at-bats.
In a postgame press conference, the man responsible for hitting the ball seemed indifferent when it came to the plight of souvenir ball No. 600.
"Whatever he wants to do with it," said Bonds. "It's his."
That's certainly what Arsenault, 36, seems to think. He said he kept telling himself just to hold onto the ball, knowing that the tiny piece of horsehide that was in his possession was going to change his life forever.
"Money talks," said Arsenault, who had not yet received an offer but made clear his plans to sell the ball. "You can't find a person that deserves it more than me. I've just gotten up and gone to work early for a lot of years now."
Would he do the same on Monday morning?
"I'll call in," he said. "If they're lucky."
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.