BOSTON – The World Series ball is gone, and Jonathan Papelbon has an excuse: My dog ate it.
Farfetched or not, that's what the Red Sox closer insists happened to the souvenir from the final out of Boston's sweep this year.
Really, Papelbon blamed it on his bulldog, Boss.
"He plays with baseballs like they are his toys," Papelbon told the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American. "He jumped up one day on the counter and snatched it. He likes rawhide. He tore that thing to pieces. Nobody knows that. I'll keep what's left of it."
While the Red Sox have swept two of the past four World Series, they've had less luck when it comes to preserving the ball that was caught for the final out. It took a prolonged negotiation before first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz agreed to donate the 2004 ball to the Hall of Fame.
Papelbon, who has a home in Hattiesburg, struck out Colorado pinch-hitter Seth Smith to finish off Game 4 on Oct. 28. Papelbon threw his glove high in the air while catcher Jason Varitek tucked the ball in his back pocket.
After the game, Varitek said he planned to give the prize to the team. A few days later, he said he'd given it to Papelbon.
Instead, the relief pitcher said, Boss got hold of that doggone ball.
Papelbon told a similar tale to the New England Sports Network for a story that aired Nov. 30 -- but with a slightly different ending. He told NESN he threw what was left of the ball in the trash.
"It's in the garbage in Florida somewhere," he said.
The fate of the last ball became an issue in 2004 when the Red Sox swept St. Louis in the World Series to end an 86-year championship drought.
Mientkiewicz, who caught a toss from pitcher Keith Foulke for the final out, kept the ball. The team wanted it back. Mientkiewicz eventually agreed to lend the ball to the Red Sox for a year and then donated it to the Hall of Fame.
The Red Sox didn't sound particularly concerned with what happened to this latest souvenir.
"The 2004 ball is obviously very special to us because it was the club's first World Series win in 86 years," team spokesman John Blake said. "This ball was in the hands of one of the players and we take his word at what happened to it, but it's a non-issue as far as the club's concerned."
The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has a bunch of Red Sox memorabilia from the 2007 World Series, including Papelbon's glove.
"We did not ask for the ball," spokesman Jeff Idelson said. "We were more focused on other items."
Papelbon wasn't in Boston and wasn't immediately available for comment, Blake said. His agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.