The Hall of Fame is recognizing the wrong fan for coming up with the 10,000th home run ball of the Giants' franchise because he bought it for $30, using a phony sob story about a dying brother, two fans say.
According to a San Jose couple at the game, the historic ball hit by San Francisco's Ernest Riles against the St. Louis Cardinals actually ended up in the hands of an unidentified man who gave it to his young daughter.But John Spagnolo, 25, got him to sell it to him for $30 by telling him he had to have it "for his brother, who was sick and dying in the hospital," the San Jose couple said.
Spagnolo sold the ball to the Giants, will be recognized by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and will throw out the first pitch at a future Giants' game.
"It was rotten," Suzanne Watson said.
"He didn't get that ball fair and square," her husband, Mark Watson, said. "He ripped somebody off."
Spagnolo defended buying the landmark baseball but denied lying to get it.
"The guy was not a fan," Spagnolo said. "He didn't know anything about it. Why should he get this honor? He didn't know what the ball was."
Spagnolo said he has an 18-year-old brother but denied saying he was sick.
"It may sound rude, or whatever, but I couldn't tell this guy that this was the 10,000th home run," Spagnolo told the San Jose Mercury News Monday night. "He never would have given it up. I said I had a little brother who wanted the ball and I do."
Riles' 400-foot homer last Saturday bounced off the upper-deck facing at Candlestick Park and landed near Cardinals' right fielder Tom Brunansky. The Watsons started yelling for the ball along with other fans and Brunansky tossed it into the stands.
A man caught it and handed it to his little girl.
"He was real happy," Mark Watson said. "All of a sudden (Spagnolo) comes screeching across the seats, saying he had to have this ball.
"The guy's going for the ball pushing the $30 at the guy who doesn't know what to do. Nobody around us realized it was the 10,000th. A few seconds later, we realized what happened.
"The guy just said, `Oh, man.' He was devastated and just walked out disgusted - the game was only in the seventh inning."
The Giants said there was nothing they could do.
"How do we know what happened?" Scot Asher, a team spokesman, said. "That guy had the ball. At the time, there was no dispute about it. We really can't do anything about it. Whoever caught it, it's on the way to Cooperstown."
The Giants' purchase price for the ball was not disclosed but Asher said it was a "modest amount."