On Derek Jeter's Tremendous Day, And Christian Lopez's Short-Sighted Decision

On Derek Jeter's Tremendous Day, And Christian Lopez's Short-Sighted Decision

Subway Squawkers

On Derek Jeter's Tremendous Day, And Christian Lopez's Short-Sighted Decision

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Yesterday was Squawker Jon’s birthday. Before we went out to dinner to celebrate his big day, we were yakking on the phone watching Derek Jeter go for No. 3000. When Jeter hit a homer off David Price on a 3-2 pitch, I literally screamed, I was so stunned and amazed!

Last week, two gambling sites sent me information about the odds that the captain would hit a single, double, triple, or home run for No. 3000. The odds were 1-4 (as in overwhelming!) that it would be a single, and 10-1 that it would be a homer. So seeing Jeter hit a homer, when he hasn’t hit one in Yankee Stadium for a year, was pretty remarkable and exciting. The rest of his game wasn’t too shabby — 5 for 5, including a game-winning hit. All in all, it was one of the best days Derek has ever had, although I groaned when Michael Kay opined, “Fairy tales can come true, it has happened to 2.” Congrats, Derek! What a day!

Anyhow, not long after Jeter hit the homer, I asked friends on Facebook what would be the price they would want if they had caught the ball. I said money, while others had a variety of suggestions, including season tickets, memorabilia, and, yes, money. Some said that they would just be happy to meet Jeter.

Of course, we now know the rest of the story — 23-year-old Christian Lopez, a Verizon Wireless cell phone salesman from Highland Mills, NY, caught the ball, and asked for nothing in return in exchange for giving back the ball to Jeter:

“Mr. Jeter deserved it. I’m not gonna take it away from him,” Christian Lopez said. “Money’s cool and all, but I’m 23 years old, I’ve got a lot of time to make that. It was never about the money, it was about the milestone.”

I know some fans thought this was great, but personally, the word running through my mind about this fan was “sap.” The fact that the Yankees were so willing to give him four Championship Suite seats for the rest of the season including the playoffs and World Series, worth somewhere around $50,000 or so should have been the clue as to how much the ball is really worth. It’s definitely worth six figures, and some have said it could be even worth more than the $752K paid for Barry Bonds’ 756th home run ball.

Here’s why Lopez should have asked for money:

* He could be facing a huge tax liability. Last year, the Houston Astros gave a fan 315 gift certificates for Shipley’s Donuts, entitling him to a free donut and coffee with each one.  In addition, he also got a “reward” from the Internal Revenue Service, when they sent him a 1099 form showing the contest winnings as income. I won’t be the least bit surprised if the IRS (and for that matter, the state of New York) gives Lopez a tax bill on these tickets.

* The Yankees, MLB, Steiner Sports, and Derek Jeter are all going to make a lot of money on the 3000th hit event known as DJ3K. Jeter himself wore the new DJ3K shirt and hat featuring a logo of himself in the postgame presser. I got emails within 20 minutes of his hit, extolling how I could buy, among other things, a Jeter autographed ball commemorating the event for “just” $699. So why can’t the fan who caught the ball actually make a little something off this?

I heard people say that Christian Lopez showed he was a true fan for giving the ball back. Well, he may be a true fan, but I think it also showed he was pretty naive. The Yankees don’t give out free tickets to fans down on their luck. Why should a fan have to act like a billion-dollar franchise is some charity case, and offer to give the ball back for free? As much I love the Yankees, I realize baseball is a business, but that should go both ways. Getting some memorabilia and autographs for giving back a journeyman player’s home run ball is one thing. But the Yankees and Jeter himself are treating DJ3K as big business — they’re not exactly giving away the t-shirts and hats and game-used dirt, after all. What’s wrong with a fan getting some cash for the ball, a very valuable commodity?

* Some said that it was worth it for Lopez to return the ball, as his name will go down in history for what he did, like Sal Durante returning the 61st home run ball to Roger Maris. But there’s more to the story than that:

…Sam Gordon, a restaurant owner in Sacramento, Calif., offered Durante $5,000 for the ball. Durante accepted and Gordon returned the ball to Maris, who had told Durante to try to make some money off the ball. 

Gordon had made the offer of $5000 before the game, and used photos of him returning the ball to Maris to promote his business. I had heard the story for years about how the selfless Durante returned the ball, but it turns out he did make some real money off it (five grand was the average salary in 1961), and that was in a time when people didn’t go memorabilia-crazy, like they do now. Good for him.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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