Expensive Catch


The guy who caught Barry Bonds' 756th home-run ball may already be on the hook for a big tax bill:

Before he celebrates his windfall, the New York Mets fan who emerged from a violent scrum clutching Barry Bonds' record-setting home run ball should probably call his accountant.

As soon as 21-year-old Matt Murphy snagged the valuable piece of sports history Tuesday night, his souvenir became taxable income in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, according to experts.

"It's an expensive catch," said John Barrie, a tax lawyer with Bryan Cave LLP in New York who grew up watching the Giants play at Candlestick Park. "Once he took possession of the ball and it was his ball, it was income to him based on its value as of yesterday."


Even if he does not sell the ball, Murphy would still owe the taxes based on a reasonable estimate of its value, according to Barrie.

I'm not sure about that "its value as of yesterday" part. Wouldn't it be the ball's value as of the end of the year? If it's the value as of the time he caught it, he could end up having to claim a loss. I heard one sports collector say on the radio this morning that Murphy's ball lost 30 percent of its value the moment Bonds hit number 757 last night.

This article also revisits St. Louis Cardinals groundskeeper Tim Forneris, who was lauded by sportswriters and politicians for voluntarily returning Mark McGwire's 62nd homerun ball back in 1998 (incidentally, the IRS initially claimed it could tax Forneris on the ball's value even if he gave the ball to McGwire, but then backed down). Forneris was given a trip to Disney and a minivan for his generosity. Meanwhile, Phil Ozersky, the guy who caught McWire's 70th, was vilified for being an evil profiteer when he sold the ball for $3 million, a windfall given what the thing is probably worth now. Forneris claims he's still comfortable with his decision. I'm guessing Ozersky is still pretty comfortable with his, too.