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 NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -Andrew Knuth, who owns the final home run baseball hit by Hank Aaron, calls it the ``pre-steroid record ball.''
With Barry Bonds about to break Aaron's record of 755 home runs, Knuth admits his investment will likely go down in value at least temporarily. But not in his mind.
``I think it's going to be the pre-steroid record ball until Alex Rodriguez or somebody breaks the record,'' Knuth said Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, Bonds had 753 home runs, two away from tying Aaron's record. The San Francisco Giants outfielder has been dogged for years by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs, but he has never tested positive and has said he has never knowingly taken steroids or any other drugs.
Knuth, a 68-year-old Weston resident who runs Westport Asset Management, bought Aaron's 755th home run ball for $650,000 at an auction in 1999. He learned of the sale from a colleague whose wife was Aaron's secretary.
``We went down on a lark as much as anything else,'' he said. ``I got kind of interested in the Aaron ball. It's just a strange set of circumstances that brought it to my attention and ownership.''
At the same auction, the baseball that St. Louis' Mark McGwire hit to break the single-season home run record sold for $3 million. Bonds later shattered that record, hitting 73 home runs in 2001.
``If the McGwire ball was worth $3 million, then certainly the Aaron ball was a better investment,'' Knuth said.
Shortly after he returned home, Knuth's phone rang. It was Aaron's wife, who explained the slugger wanted to speak with him.
``We talked about the ball and what had gone on,'' Knuth said. ``He was very interested in the ball.''
Aaron did not ask for the ball, but requested that Knuth not do anything with the Baseball Hall of Fame yet because at the time there was talk of displaying the ball at a new stadium in Milwaukee, Knuth said. That never happened.
Aaron invited Knuth to his 65th birthday party, where Knuth said he met former President Clinton.
``I don't travel too often in those circles,'' Knuth says. ``We were sort of at a preferred table.''
Richard Arndt, a former Milwaukee County Stadium groundskeeper, recovered the ball in the stands on July 20, 1976. Arndt has said he offered to give the ball to Aaron, but the Milwaukee Brewers never arranged a meeting, firing him instead for not surrendering the ball to the team.
Aaron later autographed the ball at a collector's show, unaware of what it was. He tried twice to buy the ball from Arndt, who said he decided to auction it after the Brewers declined to buy it.
Arndt received $461,700 from the sale. In keeping with a promise to Aaron, $155,800 went to Chasing the Dream Foundation, an Atlanta group that helps underprivileged children, and the balance was a commission to the auction house.
Knuth said he keeps the ball ``in a very safe place.''
``It's obviously a unique piece of history I own,'' he said. ``I think it will be in my family for a long period of time.''
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