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Gibbons gets call, not ball on first big-league homer


Jay Gibbons almost lost his first major-league home run on Wednesday before an overturned call kept it in his possession.

If only he could get the ball back.

Umpire Al Clark ruled it had hooked foul before reversing his call, delaying Gibbons' trot around the bases. A male fan who retrieved it on Eutaw Street turned in a long list of demands to club officials that was refused, and the ball remains his property.

Among the items being sought were a Cal Ripken bat and two autographed Ripken baseballs with personalized inscriptions. He also requested to be interviewed on television.

"We'll typically offer an autographed ball by the player who hit it, and sometimes a little bit more. But in this case it was pretty exorbitant," said Bill Stetka, the Orioles' director of public relations.

"He wanted items from other players, along with other things, and we couldn't comply."

Gibbons supported the Orioles' refusal to meet the demands in return for the ball.

"Last I heard, the guy was asking for all this ridiculous stuff. It would be nice to have, but he can have it if he really wants it that bad," Gibbons said.

It's become common for fans to cash in big when retrieving the ball from a historic home run, like Mark McGwire's 62nd in 1998 that broke Roger Maris' single-season record, or the 500th of Barry Bonds' career earlier this year. But the first home run from a Rule 5 draft pick who can be offered back to his original club for $25,000 doesn't figure to fetch a whole lot on the open market.

"It would be nice to have it, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it," Gibbons said.

The souvenir from Gibbons' first hit, on April 7 against Cleveland ace Bartolo Colon, was handed over to his father. He planned on doing the same with the home run ball.

"My dad's a big reason why I'm here," he said. "Growing up, BP and all that. He would have enjoyed it more than me. But the first-hit ball is probably the most important."

The home run was more dramatic because of the time that elapsed before it became official. The ball barely snuck inside the foul pole, and Gibbons already had rounded first base before Clark's initial ruling. He screamed "No, no," as coach Eddie Murray began to argue with Clark and manager Mike Hargrove ran out.

"It was kind of hard to enjoy it when I hit it because I wasn't sure it went out," Gibbons said. "I started running again [after the reversal] and I thought, 'Wait a minute, did I even touch first?' I couldn't remember, so I went back and did it again.

"I'm glad it's in the books now. ... He can have the ball. Hopefully there's a lot more to come."

Paronto bruised, beaten

Orioles reliever Chad Paronto did some running before batting practice and wasn't restricted by a large bruise on his right hip, the remains of a line drive by Paul O'Neill in Thursday's loss to the New York Yankees.

The ball struck Paronto as he turned away, loading the bases with no outs in the seventh inning. Paronto was removed, and a wild pitch by Buddy Groom increased the Yankees' lead.

"It was a bad pitch, belt high, and Paul O'Neill is a great hitter," Paronto said. "It hurt a little bit, but not bad."

Paronto absorbed more than a bruise. He also suffered his first major-league loss. He added his second last night.

Paronto insisted he wasn't intimidated by having to face the Yankees. "I think that's an easy thing for people to say, 'He's a rookie facing the world champs.' But to be honest, it didn't have anything to do with it. If I had good command [of my pitches], it would have been 1-2-3."

Segui to be re-examined

The Orioles were trying to arrange for a medical examination last night or today for first baseman David Segui, who remains on the disabled list after injuring his left hand during an April 22 game.

Segui has noted improvement in the hand, though there's still swelling around the knuckle on his middle finger. It was laying flat on the dirt as Segui completed a slide into second base when Tampa Bay shortstop Felix Martinez stepped on it, slicing the tendon.

"He has good strength in the hand. He squeezed my hand to the point where it hurt, so that's pretty good strength," Hargrove said.

Hail to the champs

The Yankees met with President Bush for a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating their third straight World Series title.

"Yankee Stadium is hallowed grounds, so is the White House," said Bush, the ex-governor of Texas. "There are fellow Texans on this team, so it's good to see the Rocket [Roger Clemens], Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch."

USC salutes Buford

Don Buford, the Orioles' director of minor-league operations, will be inducted tonight into the University of Southern California's athletic Hall of Fame. Buford played baseball and football for the Trojans from 1957 to 1959.

SportsTicker contributed to this article.

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