I don’t play this game so I can pay fans so they can give me, you know… He can have that piece of history, its for the fans that we play for too. He has the right to keep it, the ball went in the stands so I would never fight anybody to give anything back.

This is a quote from baseball great Albert Pujols. Pujols, a Los Angeles Angel hitter, hit a long home run in Detroit. What made it special is that it was his 2,000th RBI.

A Detroit fan named Ely Hydes corralled the ball and when the security team asked him with, according to  Hydes, a pretty nasty tone, to give the ball to them so that they could give it to Pujols, he refused. They did offer him money. In an interview later with a Detroit radio station, he said that he was trying to decide whether to give the ball to his brother, his father, or Pujols. Later, he said, he was thinking of selling it to provide for the baby that’s on the way. But, he said, the nasty treatment he got from the Detroit Tiger officials caused him to get his back up. He objected to being given an ultimatum with virtually no time to decide. A law student, he said that you don’t take the offer right away–you think about it.

Disappointingly, the Detroit officials told him that they would refuse to authenticate the ball, making it worthless. I’m not sure it would be worthless: the whole incident has kind of authenticated the ball. But the Detroit officials’ dog-in-the-manger approach is not admirable.

Some other people, though, are not so admirable. Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes:

Still, why can’t Hydes be like Scott Steffel, a Cal-State Fullerton student at the time, who caught Pujols’ 600th home run and returned the ball to Pujols? And asked for nothing in return.

and continues:

He just may be morally wrong, keeping a baseball that would mean so much more to Pujols — and perhaps the baseball world if the ball goes to Cooperstown — than preserved in his own house.

At age 68, I should know by now that there are many people in the world who presume to tell others what to do with their wealth. That’s bad enough. But even to suggest that Hydes, a law student in debt, is immoral for not giving some of his wealth to a very wealthy man, is breathtaking.

Interestingly, when people presume, they often get their facts wrong. Nightengale writes above that the baseball would mean so much more to Pujols. How in tarnation does he know? In fact, if we take Pujols at his word, we know that Nightengale’s assertion is false. Pujols said that he “won’t pay one penny” for the ball. So it’s worth less than a penny to Pujols. Call it a hunch, but I bet it’s worth more than a penny to Hydes.

Pujols’s attitude is admirable. He defended a stranger’s property rights.