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Milestone baseballs give power back to the people

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These are the times we root in ...

Mark McGwire
When baseballs drop from the sky into your overpriced seat or your overpriced brew, think of it as payback time.
  • Bitter tears fill the mildewed crannies of your rubber dog mask as you watch your beloved hometown team pack up and move.

  • An extra $24 gets tacked on to your water bill, so a billionaire owner can catch a free ride on a state-of-the-art crib with enough luxury box profits to engorge his throbbing wallet like green Viagra.

  • You watch the salary cap give your GM a way out, and greed dress your favorite player in the uniform of the highest bidder.

  • You watch union reps pull up to negotiations in limos the size of your apartment, and owners cancel a World Series. In a year, you may even get to watch the sequel.

    Yet you still do your part.

  • You shell out the $42.50 for a seat in the bleachers.

  • You toss another $20 at parking, and another $30 for a watered-down brew to chase down a water-wrinkled weenie. Mind you, these numbers only account for a misfit loner who goes to the game alone, or with his imaginary friend.

  • You suffer the tangy odor of your seat neighbor, and swat away the halo of flies that sizzles around his head.

    But with a crack of the bat, some high elbows, and soft hands, it is payback time.

    That's right -- you just caught a milestone ball.

    Someone's 60th, 70th, 500th, and coming soon, 750th!

    Hell, every week this year, Barry Bonds knocks another pill off a scuba diver in McCovey Cove, and passes another legend on the all-timer charts. Get there first, and the tables have turned with a vengeance.

    For the first time since players kicked it old school and sold suits in the offseason, or the days when owners made their living off the team, you have the power.

    Of course, the world still expects you to handle the situation like a purist. If it's a visitor's slam, toss it back. If it's your hometown hero, who arrived as a free agent two weeks ago, hand it to him with a handshake and a sheepish grin.

    Or even worse, wait around four hours while he takes a whirlpool, loses 10 grand in a clubhouse game of Go Fish, then sends a trainer out to swap your ball for a signed bat personally forged by the team's traveling secretary.

    Everybody wants you to surrender a milestone, or as I see it, The Great Equalizer. I say, Why? It's the only time a fan has power over the game.

    Normally, the baseball memorabilia market makes me wretch, but here's the exception to the rule -- a "collectible" that means something in the only coin of the realm: Power. You're supposed to surrender and show your belly?

    I say, How bad do they want it?

  • You could put your own tour together, barnstorming the country with the ball, some of Bob Crane's home movies, and the real live Bob Denver.

  • You could get a superstar to drive you to Sizzler ... and pay!

  • You could ask Albert Belle to sit in the stands and let you throw it at his head.

  • Get a big leaguer to name an illegitimate kid after your late, beloved Uncle Chappy.

  • Or take the game to task and demand that the commissioner force George Steinbrenner into revenue sharing.

    Trust me, a player will think about that the next time he sits for a paid autograph-signing making zero eye contact. And if he refuses? Well, isn't that why the good Lord created E-bay?

    Humorist Nick Bakay, currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. He has a website at

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