McFarlane, like Alou, can’t make catch - East Valley Tribune: Sports

McFarlane, like Alou, can’t make catch

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Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2003 2:45 am | Updated: 1:49 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Todd McFarlane is a successful businessman from Ahwatukee Foothills who collects historic game-used baseballs. His fame came through his comic book creation, Spawn.

Steve Bartman is a successful financial analyst in Northbrook, Ill., who loves the Chicago Cubs. His infamy came when he reached for a foul ball Moises Alou was trying to catch in Game 6 of the National League championship series.

McFarlane and Bartman crossed paths Friday. The result was nearly the same as that Oct. 14 evening at Wrigley Field — the ball was bobbled.

McFarlane came in second in an auction of the foul ball hit by Florida's Luis Castillo and bobbled by Bartman before Alou could get a glove on it. It was retrieved by a Chicago-based attorney sitting behind Bartman. The attorney, who wishes to remain anonymous, consigned the ball to auction house MastroNet Inc. of Oak Brook, Ill.

When the 17-day auction ended at around 4 a.m. Arizona time Friday, Grant DePorter, a friend of Harry Caray and managing partner of the late broadcaster’s Chicago area restaurants, paid $106,600 for it. His final bid was $92,719. With a 15 percent buyer's premium and Illinois sales tax, the restaurant will pay $113,824.16 for the ball.

DePorter said he plans to destroy the ball in an attempt to end the so-called curse that has kept the Cubs from a World Series since 1945 and winning one since 1908. They were within five outs when Alou couldn't get the ball. The team got frazzled and wound up losing Games 6 and 7. "The ball will receive no pardon," DePorter said. "This ball will be gone."

McFarlane's last bid was $88,303. With a buyer's premium — being out of state he didn't have to pay Illinois taxes — he would have shelled out $101,548.

Like Bartman, McFarlane bobbled the ball.

"I figured it would go for around $30,000," McFarlane said. "I started at $10,000 and set $30,000 as my limit. When bidding supposedly ended at around 9 p.m., there were 18 bids and I was high ($37,023). This is an odd auction in that all the other items, and there were around 500, must not get bids for 10 consecutive minutes before the auction completely ends. That's why, despite the end time, it showed 'extended' online.

"In a true auction, you have to have courage. Now! You've got like 25 seconds to get your courage up. I like the true guns-to-your-head, no-time, think-now, die-now auctions. If I'm high at $30,000, that's it. The way this one was, you see that there were 37 bidders but you have no idea how many were in there between you or when the winner came into it.

"I had every other one in between my high at $37,000 and up until the second highest one. This is the first time I had to put my hand down (in an auction) and say 'No, I don't win this one. I'm out.' ”

DePorter told The Associated Press the ball will be destroyed Feb. 26, when the restaurant organizes a worldwide toast to Caray. DePorter plans to ask Cubs fans and restaurant patrons for ideas on how to carry out the deed.

‘‘Destroying it hopefully will have kind of a cathartic effect for the fans,’’ DePorter said. "We want to create some closure to the way the season ended. Harry Caray was a true Cubs fan and we think he’d want us to do whatever we can to make it easier for fans to put this thing behind us."

Caray's widow, Dutchie, "wanted to get a French knife out, chop it up and saute it on a stove," DePorter told the Chicago Tribune.

McFarlane said he had similar final ideas for the ball. "We do think alike," he said. "Especially in like how to vex the Cubs curse in a public way."

DePorter said he was pleased the ball surpassed the one that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series, helping the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox. Actor Charlie Sheen paid $93,500 for that ball in a 1992 auction. Author Seth Swirsky bid $63,945 to acquire it in 2000.

‘‘The Cubs fans’ sorrow is worth more than the Red Sox fans’ sorrow,’’ DePorter told the AP.

The ball was authenticated using affidavits, ticket stubs and other information, MastroNet vice president of acquisitions Brian Marren said. Marren admits his firm was somewhat surprised with the final bid.

"I was a little shocked that it reached six figures," he said. "I figured somebody would be creative with it and use it for some publicity."

DePorter said Bartman will be invited to the event when the ball is destroyed. Bartman declined to comment through his spokesman, Jim O'Connor, who said that Bartman has sought to avoid the limelight since the incident. O'Connor also said Bartman doesn't plan to attend the restaurant's event.

McFarlane, who owns historic home run balls hit by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, seemed intent on getting his hands on the Bartman ball. He paid $3 million for McGwire's then-record No. 70 in 1998.

"Wake up the next morning and see who's name is on it," McFarlane said on Dec. 11 when asked how serious he was about acquiring the ball, which had an opening bid of $5,000. "I don't know if what I pay will be stupid. I've passed stupid plenty of times in my life."

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