Kirk Gibson's bat for sale, but please don't buy it

Kirk Gibson celebrates walk off homer World Series home runLike the dying millionaire who leaves an estate to their cat so the quibbling relatives won't fight over it, Kirk Gibson is selling the bat he used to hit a home run to win the 1988 World Series opener, along with the jersey and helmet from the same play, and keeping the money for himself.

The tar-stained and nicked-up bat, which tells a story in itself, and the other items could get as much as $500,000 at auction, especially if a Los Angeles Dodgers fan buys it. An Oakland A's fan would value it at a lot less, although they might be tempted to overbid and buy it and destroy it -- as someone did in paying $113,824 for a Chicago Cubs baseball caught by Steve Bartman, a catch Cubs fans swear cost them a trip to the World Series in 2003.

Gibson says he doesn't have financial problems -- he recently signed a two-year contract to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks -- he told reporters, including the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke, in a conference call. But there are deeper reasons than worrying about the prized bat remaining in a safe.

"I don't know how I can word this properly . . . there will be no argument from this point on, just leave it that way," he said. "Nobody is going to be fighting or arguing over it. "

Whether you agree with Gibson's reasoning -- to sell it now so he won't have to worry about losing it in a fire, and keep his bickering relatives out of his hair -- it's his property and he can try and sell it if he wants to. But having $500,000 in his pocket won't solve the arguing relatives -- they'll just want his money instead of his bat. He's also selling some memorabilia to fund scholarships in his hometown, so hopefully his relatives won't argue over that.

What Gibson should do, as should anyone who buys the bat, is do the honorable thing and donate it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Keeping a historic item locked away in a safe, or at home for your friends to see, is no way to keep the bat. If no one buys it, maybe it will send a message to Gibson to take it out of storage and donate it to the Hall of Fame. Or a buyer could donate it after having it appraised for tax purposes.

The Hall of Fame is a nonprofit institution where everything is donated, and it doesn't have the money to get into such auctions. It's an "eternal home," as Hall spokesman Brad Horn told me in a phone interview, and takes care of artifacts much better than any private collector can.

"A collector is very different form what we do as a history museum," Horn said.

Gibson has said he won't give it to the Hall of Fame, and representatives there haven't spoken with him this week. The Hall respects the "individual right to do with these items as he pleases," Horn said, and tries to collect items as they happen, such as already having Roy Halladay's jersey that he wore while pitching a no-hitter in the National League Division Series.

"We work proactively to educate baseball players, teams, fans and collectors on the role we play in baseball history," Horn said.

Selling baseball artifacts has become a popular commercial venture in the past 50 years, but keeping baseball history locked away at home, or in a bank vault or storage facility, is no way to remember the past. I asked Horn if the Hall could set up a donation box next to Gibson's famous bat if he donated it, with the money going directly to Gibson. No, he said, the Hall can't legally return fees to donors.

Donors of "three-dimensional artifacts," as the Hall calls them, get a free lifetime pass to the museum. Since the only Gibsons inducted into the Hall of Fame are Josh and Bob, Kirk Gibson needs another way to get in for free. If he's looking for ways to save money, his historic bat will save him a lifetime of Hall of Fame admission fees and put him in the Hall for eternity. You can't buy that with $500,000.
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