Marc Ecko
(September 2007)

Marc Ecko, a 35-year-old fashion designer has money to burn, so he bought the ball ( for $752,467! ) that juiced slugger Barry Bonds hit out of the park to pass Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home-run champion and branded it with an asterisk, signifying that Bonds’ achievement was aided by drugs and deception. Ecko offered the defaced ball to the Hall of Fame, which gladly accepted it. The criticism now being aimed at Ecko, like so much of the commentary related to Bonds, is wrong-headed. He has done baseball and history a great favor.

For now when the ball is put on display at Cooperstown, it will prompt children to ask, “Gee, Dad (or Mom)…why does that ball have that star thing on it?” And Mom (or Dad), one hopes, will reply, “Well, once there was a great baseball player named Barry Bonds, and he was the best in the game. But it wasn’t enough for him to be recognized as the best player of his time; he was greedy and angry and arrogant, and wanted to be regarded as the greatest player of all-time. So he cheated. He used illegal substances that made him extra strong, and gave him a boost of strength just when he was starting to get old. The drugs worked: he broke lots of records, won lots of awards, and made lots of money. But because he cheated, he didn’t become the greatest baseball player; he became one of the worst. Because he made everyone cynical about the records he broke, and made people suspicious of players who hadn’t cheated, and he encouraged lots of players to do what he has done…lie, break the rules, and get an unfair advantage. That’s why the ball he hit to break the all-time record for home-runs has that asterisk…so nobody will ever forget that it was a home run that never should have been hit, and that by hitting it, Barry Bonds debased baseball.”

Bonds, as any rational person who has examined the body of evidence must conclude, is guilty of doping beyond any reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, many sportswriters, athletes and broadcasters still stubbornly and illogically defend Bonds, and are now focusing their ire on Ecko. “This is a silly prank that has no place in the Hall of Fame, ” wrote New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden. “A fashion designer is putting his spin on history, forcing the Hall to accept that spin as a condition of receiving the historic ball.”

“Spin?” Bonds’ cheating to achieve his performance goals isn’t just a rumor or suspicion, it is backed by testimony, documents, experience, common sense and fact. Bonds’ trainer is a convicted steroid peddler, and he is in jail for refusing to supply answers to a federal grand jury that is investigating his pal and client. Barry Bonds’ name was on the records of a steroid supplier, and Bonds told a grand jury that he in fact took steroids, but “accidentally.” Those are three facts out of a thousand. And they’re convincing by themselves. The “spin” is the assortment of rationalizations and excuses that Bonds’ defenders keep repeating to pretend Bonds’ home run record is legitimate.

A fashion designer is taking action only because Major League Baseball was negligent in allowing Bonds’ dishonesty to continue until it disgraced the game. The Scoreboard would prefer for nothing whatsoever to represent Bonds in the Hall of Fame—not a plaque, not a bat, not a word. But because he was allowed to cheat, Bonds defaced baseball’s record book. Thanks to Mark Ecko, anyone who looks at the 756th home run ball will know it.

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