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On October 7, 2001, the same day America launched an attack on Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks, Barry Bonds hit the final home run in a record-breaking season and ignited a ridiculous war between two stubborn baseball fans. Filmmaker Michael Wranovics chose to chronicle the long and winding journey that took the infamous "million-dollar...read more

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Reviewed by Angel Cohn
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On October 7, 2001, the same day America launched an attack on Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks, Barry Bonds hit the final home run in a record-breaking season and ignited a ridiculous war between two stubborn baseball fans. Filmmaker Michael Wranovics chose to chronicle the long and winding journey that took the infamous "million-dollar ball" from playing field to courtroom. On that fateful day at PacBell Park, Bonds drove a hit into the bleachers, where Alex Popov claims to have caught the ball before being swarmed by the crowd. During the ruckus, Patrick Hayashi supposedly stooped down and snatched the ball from Popov's glove, claiming it as his own. In such situations, possession is normally nine tenths of the law. But local cameraman Josh Keppel captured some chaotic footage that corroborated Popov's account, at least to a point. Some witnesses also supported Popov's version, while others claimed there was second ball in play and Popov caught it. The decoy ball, marked "sucker," was never found. Unable to settle their dispute amicably, Popov and Hayashi instead spent a year in court. Hayashi comes off better than Popov, even though he supposedly bit a child's leg to nab the disputed souvenir; he offered to sell the ball and split the profits if Popov would simply apologize. Popov took his case to the media and milked his 15 minutes of fame; it's hard not to see him as a raging egotist who tied up the courts and spent a lot of money for a chance to "be a part of history." Even Bonds advised the bickering pair to sell the thing, since its value was diminishing in direct proportion to the time spent wrangling over it. Wranovics dutifully assembled all the key players (though it probably wasn't tough to get Popov on camera), and contrasts their sorry behavior with that of Sal Durante, the then-19-year-old who caught the ball with which Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961. But while the material is interesting, it's not substantial enough to sustain a feature-length treatment, a fact made clear by such headache-inducing padding as clips of all Bonds' 73 home runs and an interview with a dentist who witnessed the Popov-Hayashi scuffle, conducted while he drilled the teeth of an unfortunate patient.