Alex Popov remembered his glove but couldn’t hang
onto the ball, a costly mistake documented in the film Up for
Grabs. The documentary, directed, written, and produced by
Michael Wranovics, follows the battle for the baseball hit
by Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants in his single-season
record 73rd home run on Oct. 7, 2001.
Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball ended up in the right
field bleachers of Pac-Bell Park, and a melee broke out as fans
scrambled for the precious keepsake. A local television news
cameraman, Josh Keppel, whose footage makes up most of the movie,
has his camera running as the ball is jarred from Popov’s
glove and ends up in the possession of Patrick Hayashi.
This ball was expected to fetch millions of dollars. After
all, when Mark McGwire hit what was at the time a record
run to end the 1998 season, the ball was sold at auction for
$2.7 million—the most ever paid for a sports artifact.
Roger Maris hit 61 home runs and broke Babe Ruth’s record
40 years earlier in 1961, but the ball, which was caught by Sal
Durante, sold for a mere $5,000.
Major League Baseball officials credit Hayashi with hauling
in the ball, but Popov has accused Hayashi of stealing it
glove and insists he, Popov, is the rightful owner. Popov filed
a lawsuit against Hayashi claiming that the ball was stolen.
The film follows the court case as numerous witnesses come
forward and share their opinions about how the ball ended
up in Hayashi’s
possession. Some bystanders say that Popov had the ball and then
dropped it, making it free for Hayashi to recover. Others say
Hayashi dove into the pile of fans and punched, kicked, and clawed
until he emerged with the ball. A video clip even shows Hayashi
apparently biting the leg of a boy near Popov in order to get
closer to the ball.
Judge Kevin McCarthy presided over the case and is given the
arduous task of determining who owns the ball. However, more
and more evidence piled up against both plaintiff and defendant,
and the public focused on who told the fewer lies instead of
the most truth. As the 2002 World Series came and went, Popov
was seen as an egomaniac who took every opportunity possible
to remain in the public eye.
Finally, 437 days after the home run was hit, a verdict was
reached and the film followed both men as they dealt with
of taking the matter to court instead of settling the issue without
Judge McCarthy ruled that both men had an “equal and undivided
interest in the ball” and ordered that the ball be sold
at auction. The proceeds were then split equally between Hayashi
and Popov. The ball sold for $450,000 at auction and after fees
incurred at the auction, each man receives roughly $200,000.
While Hayashi’s lawyers declined payment and allowed him
to keep all the profits, Popov racked up a $640,000 legal bill—a
fee that he refuses to pay. Popov filed a lawsuit against his
lawyers claiming that he was not represented fairly and has yet
to receive a penny from the sale of the ball as he fights his
new court battle.
The film made its Hawai‘i debut Oct. 25 in the Louis Vuitton
Hawai‘i International Film Festival at the Signature Dole
Cannery Theaters. Wranovics and coordinating producer Michael
Lindenberger were in Honolulu for the screening of their first
film which has already won Best Documentary honors at both the
Phoenix and Los Angeles Film Festivals.
My goal was to capture the story accurately and to get this film
under my belt,” said Wranovics. “I knew that the
story would have suspense and drama because it involved a legal
case that was unprecedented.”
Instead of focusing only on the baseball aspect of the story,
the filmmakers put an emphasis on the characters and their
actions which seemed more absurd as time went by. The unbiased
of events presents both sides of the story and leaves the audience
in suspense until the final verdict is read.
People see an interesting character (Popov) not stopping at anything
and even making a fool of himself,” said Lindenberger. “There’s
a lot of comedy, lots of twists, and you don’t have to
be a baseball fan to enjoy this film.”
The film is expected to be released nationwide next spring,
just in time for baseball season. It has a running time
of 88 minutes.