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Mientkiewicz’s claim to ball thin

Associated Press

Doug Mientkiewicz, call a lawyer. You’re going to need one if you want to keep the baseball you caught for the final out of the World Series.

The Red Sox first baseman is storing the ball that clinched Boston’s first title since 1918 in a safe-deposit box near his Florida home. But the Red Sox want it back so they can show it off, and legal scholars say the team has a good case if it wants to fight Mientkiewicz in court.

“What appears to be emerging as a legal consensus is that the person with the least rights to it is Mientkiewicz himself,” said Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh, who ranked the claims as: “the Cardinals, the Red Sox, Major League Baseball and then the guy who happened to hold it at the end of the game.”

Mientkiewicz happened upon his keepsake when St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria knocked it back to Red Sox pitcher Keith Foulke with two outs in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the World Series. Foulke made an underhand toss to first base, and Boston’s 86-year title drought was over.

Mientkiewicz initially called the ball his “retirement fund,” though he later backed off those comments and said he wants it for sentimental value. The problem is, so does the team that waited nine decades to even have a chance to talk about the last out of a World Series victory.

“It’s not Doug’s ball. It belongs to all of us,” said Roger Abrams, a Northeastern University law professor who has written several baseball books. “He is the trustee of the ball but it is owned by all of Red Sox Nation and it should find a place of special importance, either at Fenway or Cooperstown.”

Paul Finkelman, who was an expert witness in the court fight over Bonds’ 73rd home run ball, said the fact that Mientkiewicz was a midseason addition and a late-inning replacement makes his claim to the ball tenuous. If he had made a leaping catch to secure the victory, been a major contributor during the regular season or even weathered the franchise’s lean years, fans and courts might be more sympathetic.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the team is negotiating for the ball through Mientkiewicz’s agent. The logical and expected solution is for Mientkiewicz to own the ball and lend it to the Red Sox so they can display it.

Delgado closer to decision

Carlos Delgado’s agent spoke with all four teams pursuing the free-agent first baseman, giving no indication whether his client was moving toward a decision on which team to sign with.

“I had extensive telephone conversations today with representatives of the Mets, Orioles and Rangers and a face-to-face meeting with the Marlins due to the proximity,” agent David Sloane, who lives in Florida, said in an e-mail.

Delgado met in Puerto Rico with the Mets on Thursday and with Rangers owner Tom Hicks and his staff on Friday.

Delgado, 32, hit .269 last season for Toronto with 32 homers and 99 RBIs. He and outfielder Magglio Ordonez are the last top free agents who remain unsigned.

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