David Kohler is about to make a tidy profit off Barry Bonds, which by itself isn't such a bad thing. Bonds himself has never been shy about making a few extra bucks on everything from the wrist bands he wears in a game to an autographed pair of his shoes.
Like Bonds, Kohler sells sentiment, and baseball fans have always been a sentimental lot. How else can you explain someone paying $600 in a recent auction for the 1909 marriage license of Frank ``Home Run'' Baker.
Kohler's mission over the next few weeks is to get the most money he can for a pair of baseballs that suddenly became very valuable when Bonds hit them out of ballparks in San Diego and San Francisco. Bonds might not be that popular, but Kohler believes home run balls Nos. 755 and 756 will be.
It won't be Mark McGwire money, because that market has tanked. The ball that sold so famously for $3 million after McGwire broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998 would be lucky to go for low six figures today.
And, remember, this is Barry Bonds, who doesn't generate the warm and fuzzy kind of feelings that McGwire did in his prime.
``Obviously, there is some controversy out there over Bonds and the allegations,'' said Kohler, president of SCP Auctions. ``We're not saying it's worth $3 million, but how low can it go? We may be surprised with the interest we get.''
Kohler figures the ball that Adam Hughes caught in San Diego that tied Henry Aaron's record will go for between $100,000 and $200,000. The record-breaking ball that Matt Murphy emerged with from a scrum in San Francisco a few days later, he says, likely will fetch between $400,000 to $500,000.
No one came up with the $60,000 minimum bid on ball 755 or the $100,000 on ball 756 on the auction's first day, but there's no doubt someone with a lot of disposable income will have a new addition to their trophy case by the time the auction closes Sept. 15. For the simply curious, the balls will be on display beginning Sept. 6 in the lobby at Sotheby's in New York City.
It's not exactly the Hall of Fame, but then again Cooperstown doesn't break out a checkbook for its memorabilia. If it did, maybe Bonds would have been enticed to give the hall more than just the two batting helmets he wore while hitting the home runs.
Those helmets sit in a display case along with the cap Mike Bacsik was wearing when he surrendered the record-breaking home run and a ball and strike counter used by umpire John Hirschbeck.
Contrast that to the donation Trevor Hoffman made to Cooperstown when he became the first pitcher to get to 500 saves this year. Hoffman gave the Hall his spikes, jersey, cap and the ball from the final out to add to its collection.
``He was over-the-top generous, and very enthusiastic,'' said Ted Spencer, vice president and chief curator at the baseball shrine.
The Hall of Fame doesn't have much from Bonds at all to celebrate any of his big home runs, which is perhaps fitting considering a lot of baseball purists don't consider him the single season home run leader or the holder of the all-time mark because of his association with the BALCO steroid scandal.
There's a bat from an early season home run in 2001 and a ball from another home run two weeks later. But you'd have more chance finding something from that season or this one for sale on BarryBonds.com than on exhibit in Cooperstown.
``We tell the story whether we have the artifacts or not, let me just say that,'' Spencer said as diplomatically as possible.
Even an institution with the pedigree of the Hall of Fame has trouble competing in today's memorabilia marketplace, where big bucks are not only enticing to the lucky two fans who caught the home run balls but to players themselves who can add to their millions with a good collection of stuff. Bonds is the most public about selling his stuff, but he's not alone.
Bonds doesn't have the two biggest home run balls of his career, though. Those belong to two fans who are taking his advice and making some money off the moment. Kohler said he would be pleased if the buyers would loan or donate the balls to the Hall of Fame - after paying him the 20 percent buyer's commission, of course.
``That would be a great gesture,'' he said.
It would be, but let's take it a step further. How about Bonds takes two weeks' salary, buys the balls himself, and donates them to Cooperstown?
The would go a long way toward making baseball feel better about the tainted slugger.
And it might make us all feel a little better about the record he broke.
----
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

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