KNTV reporter Ted Rowlands says his first flush of ecstasy at finding himself at the bottom, literally, of a big story was replaced by panic as he was crushed against Alex Popov, the air driven from his lungs.
Kathryn Sorenson, who played tackle football with boys while growing up, says it felt like the middle of a blitz with Alex Popov as the quarterback. Says she saw people raking at him and kneeing him to obtain the ball she's sure he caught and took to the ground. Says she saw Patrick Hayashi bite a teenage boy and thrust his hand underneath Popov's crotch to try to get the ball.
Jim Callahan, a piano-shop proprietor whom Sorenson identifies as one of the ball-rakers, says no, the experience was neither scary nor violent—that he, in fact, said, "Sorry, excuse me," as he foraged for the nugget beneath a man's buttocks. Besides, he adds, he was looking right into Alex's glove one second after Alex hit the ground, and the ball he saw inside it wasn't the Bonds ball, but somehow another one, with black felt-tip lettering on it.
Doug Yarris, a dentist, says that's not possible, that he landed with his head two or three feet from Popov's glove as it lay tucked near Alex's torso, and that the ball inside the glove was the one Bonds hit.
Kevin Griffin, a plumbing contractor who agrees that the ball should be Popov's, reeled away with a new insight into his species: "I felt bad for Alex. I felt bad for humanity. It opened my eyes to how ruthless human beings can be."
Jeff Hacker and Paul Castro, who design display panels for military aircraft, insist that no theft or atrocity occurred and that Popov himself told them a half-hour later—which Alex denies—that he must have lost the ball after transferring it into his clothing in an attempt to protect the million-dollar one by pulling a switcheroo with a second ball.
Alex? He says he had the ball for at least 45 seconds but that no man could be expected to withstand such an assault, and that he can't recall transferring it from his glove to his clothing, but God knows, in that madness he might've considered it.
On and on went the scrum, new bodies joining in whooping celebration as if it were a mosh pit, some in hope that a TV eye was watching and making them immortal, others determined to keep scavenging because no one had yet stood and displayed ownership of the ball. Somehow, the million-dollar nugget seemed to have vanished.
And where was security? Nearly half the security guards that the Giants had contracted to supervise the stands that day were no-shows. A half minute elapsed before a Major League Baseball security officer could reach the maelstrom, another half minute before two reinforcements arrived, all in plain clothes. "Where is it? Cough it up!" they demanded, yanking bodies out by the scalp and scruff of the neck, but because they wore no uniforms the chaos multiplied, the treasure-seekers believing that three more bullies were bent on becoming rich by hook or by crook.
At last Alex was excavated, gouged and dazed. All eyes fixed on him. The ball in his hand was a squishy imposter, one he'd just picked up as he felt around for the Bonds ball now missing from his glove. "This isn't it!" he cried. Ted Rowlands, still convinced Alex was the new millionaire, whipped his microphone out of his jacket to interview him. Kathryn Sorenson flinched—she thought the flash of metal was a gun. Alex's hands groped his jacket and pants pocket in bewilderment. "I caught it!" he cried. "It f——-' hit my glove!"