SAN FRANCISCO – With the crack of the bat a brief stillness settled over the right-center field bleachers at AT&T Park as Barry Bonds' record-breaking homer rocketed toward the crowd.
Then the scrum was on.
As the specially marked baseball landed a few rows up in the fifth inning Tuesday night, dozens of fans wrestled for it and the promise of riches it carried. Suddenly, the metal bleachers vibrated with energy. Grunts, cheers and the cries of frightened children broke the silence as parents sought to shield their youngsters from the chaos.
In the middle of it all was 22-year-old New Yorker Matt Murphy, who emerged from beneath the pile holding the ball Bonds hit for career home run No. 756. His face was bloodied and his clothes stretched and torn from his battle in the bleachers.
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A team of San Francisco police officers moved in, extracted Murphy from the crowd, and quickly led him through a tunnel and into a secure room.
As he high-fived other fans, Murphy, wearing a New York Mets jersey and cap, slid the ball into the back pocket of his plaid Bermuda shorts.
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Reporters screamed questions, but all he managed to say was, "I'm Matt Murphy from Queens, N.Y."
"I just hope he didn't get hurt," Bonds said after the game, which the Giants lost 8-6 to the Washington Nationals. He said he had no interest in getting the ball back for himself.
"I don't want the ball," Bonds said. "I've never believed a home run ball belonged to the player. If he caught it, it's his."
Murphy and a friend were en route to Australia and in San Francisco for a one-day layover, a Giants spokesman said. They purchased tickets just before the game.
He and the friend, dressed in New York Yankees regalia, were razzed by nearby Giants fans. "Hey, this isn't New York!" one shouted. Murphy and his friend just laughed it off before settling into their seats.
Murphy declined to make himself available to the media.
Baseball memorabilia experts have pegged the ball's value at $400,000 to $500,000. That's well below the $3.3 million fetched by Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1998.
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