DETROIT —Even after one sports memorabilia expert estimated Albert Pujols’s 2,000th career RBI baseball could be worth $25,000 at auction, the Tigers fan who recovered the home run ball said he won’t consider selling it.
“No,” Ely Hydes, 33, told the Detroit Free Press on Friday. “Because it should either be with Albert Pujols or in the Hall of Fame.”
Hydes, a third-year law student at Wayne State, said he hasn’t landed on a definite plan for what to do with the historic ball, after he garnered almost as much attention for his somewhat contentious negotiations with the Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, as Pujols did for his milestone feat.
Pujols became the third player since 1920 to reach 2,000 career RBIs.
Hydes said he might keep it for his child or give it to his brother, who is a big fan of Pujols and his first team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Or he might give the ball to Pujols and ask him to donate money to Pujols’ own charity.
“I would say that should be a gesture, but again I don’t put a gun to Pujols’ head,” Hydes said with a laugh. “It’s not a threat or anything.
“And maybe — maybe — a jersey for my brother because he’s such a Cardinals and Pujols fan. But for myself, just whatever.”
After a full day of blistering attention, and some harsh treatment on social media and during a radio interview, the pressure of the decision was overwhelming for Hydes, who tried to pose with as many fans as he could at Comerica Park on Thursday.
“This is exactly why I didn’t take the Tigers’ staff on their deal, because they were so high-pressure, like decide now or lose it forever and I knew I had to think on it,” he said. “But after sleeping on it, I woke up and I was like, ‘You know what? I hate that I’ve become part of this story. I hate that every headline is like, ‘Comma, stubborn fan keeps it.’ It’s just not right. It’s Albert’s achievement. It should be his.
“But if he doesn’t want it or whatever and thinks I’ve already spurned him, then I think it should be in Cooperstown where everyone can enjoy it. Because I can only pass it off to so many people who can take pictures. It should be in a museum, or with the man himself.”
Should Hydes have a change of heart and decide to sell the ball, longtime sports memorabilia dealer Joshua Leland Evans said he should sell it as soon as possible.
“He should sell it tomorrow,” said Evans, 58, chairman and founding partner of Lelands auction house. “I mean, he should sell it today. It’s already too late, in a sense.”
Evans said that’s because the excitement of the event fades quickly, which runs counter to a common misconception that the longer a piece of sports memorabilia is kept, the higher the value climbs.
“These kind of events are like a flash of lightning in a bottle,” said Evans, whose company has sold a Babe Ruth jersey for $4.5 million and Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball for $450,000. “And it’s exciting exactly when it happens. In a year, it’ll be, ‘Oh, yeah. I remember that.’ ”
Hydes was not able to get the ball authenticated by Major League Baseball. The authenticator at the game apparently lost sight of the ball in the left field stands, and the ball had no special marking from MLB that would identify it as a historic ball.
Evans said MLB authentication would have helped the ball’s value, but all the media attention Hydes received makes it a small leap of faith for a collector to believe in the ball’s authenticity. Authenticated or not, the ball’s value was ultimately at its highest when Hydes first possessed it.
“That ball should be worth at least, let’s say, $25,000,” Evans said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if now somebody made him an even higher offer than that (Thursday). Because at the moment of impact, that’s when the thing is the most valuable.
“The people who have the most self-control to sell it right then and there are the ones who benefit the most. The Barry Bonds ball was not sold till a year later because there was a big court fight over it and it would have sold for well over a million if he hadn’t waited. So that plays a factor. It might be worth $100,000 today and by the time it goes to auction, it’s worth 25 (thousand).”
But why does Pujols’ 2,000th RBI ball have such a low value compared with Bonds’ record 73rd home run ball?
“It’s kind of a boring record,” Evans said. “Everything is about home runs when it comes to collecting. The biggest thing for a long, long time was 500 home-run hitters. … So it’s not as commercial as say a 500 home-run ball or a career home-run ball.”
As for what might have been a fair offer from the Tigers or Angels, Evans said comparable memorabilia would have sufficed.
“The fairest thing would have been to have given him the jersey he wore or the bat he hit it with,” he said.