-- SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge delayed until Friday a hearing onwho the rightful owner of Barry Bonds' 700th home run ball is,giving lawyers on both sides time to make their cases.
Steve Williams, the Giants fan who ended up with the prized ballduring a melee in the left-center field bleachers at SBC Park onSept. 17, promised San Francisco County Superior Court Judge RonaldQuidachay that he would not sell the ball before Quidachay rules onwho it belongs to. The president of a Chicago-based auction companyhas said the ball's value is in the "six figures."
Halting the sale of the ball allows a lawsuit brought by TimothyMurphy, who claims Williams stole the ball from him, to proceed.
If the judge ultimately declines to block the ball from beingauctioned, Williams likely would be able to sell the ballimmediately and the case would be over.
But, before that, it took a twist.
Minutes before the hearing, another man, Alex Patino, said thathe was the rightful owner of the ball and is also planning on suingWilliams.
"I just rolled on it and trapped it," he said, adding thatMurphy "muffed" the catch.
His attorney, Nikita Scope, said Patino is the rightful ownerbecause Williams snatched it from him -- the same claim Murphy ismaking.
"He sat on it and had possession," Scope said of Patino.
Murphy sued Williams on Tuesday, claiming he pinned the ballunderneath his leg during a scrum after the baseball struckMurphy's chin. Murphy claims he is the ball's owner becauseWilliams stole it from him while he was in a pile of fans.
"We are confident that once evidence is presented in court inthe form of both witnesses and videotape, it will be clear that Mr.Murphy had lawful possession of the ball and is the rightfulowner," Murphy's attorney, Joseph Scanlan Jr., said.
Williams' attorney, Daniel Horowitz, said the suit was"frivolous" and an attempt "to extract money even when it is notjustified."
Bonds became the first new member of the 700-homer club in 31years, joining Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. He now has 703 career homeruns and is closing in on Ruth (714) and Aaron (755).
It is not the first time fans headed to court over the fate of aBonds' home run ball. In October 2001, Bonds' record-setting 73rdhomer of the season sparked litigation that ended when a judgeordered both men to split the $450,000 the ball fetched.