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Ball games irk Mientkiewicz

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  July 17, 2006 05:41 PM

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When Keith Foulke fielded an Edgar Renteria tapper back to the mound and threw to first base for the final out of the 2004 World Series it ended 86 years of agony for Sox fans.

The end of the Fenway Faithful's anguish was the beginning of Doug Mientkiewicz's, as he became embroiled in a nasty dispute with the Red Sox over possession of the ball, which now rests in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Mientkiewicz said that "ballgate" is like a roach -- it never dies.

"I don't want to cause a whole big ruckus. I wanted it to just die, but I knew coming in it was going to be a zoo," said Mientkiewicz before tonight's game. "I'm just hoping there's no red sniper rifle dots on my chest when I play. Not a lot of my teammates wanted to ride with me today on my way to the park."

Mientkiewicz said that he never intended to sell the World Series ball and personally profit from it, saying he was joking when he was quoted as saying he'd use it to put his kids through college.

"Never in my wildest dreams or even if I owned it would I ever think about selling that thing," he said. "It's too important to put a dollar sign on."

Mientkiewicz blamed Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino for turning the ownership of the ball into a rancorous public dispute. He questioned why the team waited until three months after the World Series to contact him about the ball, claiming he told them he had it, and said it never would have been an issue if the negotiations had been kept behind closed doors.

He also disputed Keith Foulke's assertion that the Red Sox reliever asked Mientkiewicz for the ball. "If he did ask me, I don't think I heard it," said Mientkiewicz. "It's a tough thing. What guy on the team deserves it the most? Obviously, I know I didn't, but what do you do cut it up in 25 pieces? It's just one of those things where you don't want to get caught into I did this or I did that because then it turns into an I-thing instead of a we-thing. So, I'm kind of glad it ended up where it ended up."

Mientkiewicz said his biggest regret about his time with the Red Sox has nothing to do with the disputed ball, but rather the way he played.

"I didn't play my best baseball when I was here. That's my fault. That's the only thing I really, really regret."

For more on this story read Nick Cafardo's piece in tomorrow's Boston Globe.

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