The Boston Red Sox will enter arbitration with former first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to determine ownership of the baseball that relief pitcher Keith Foulke flipped to Mientkiewicz to record the final out of the 2004 World Series.
The team confirmed last night that the dispute will be headed to arbitration. The Associated Press first reported the change in position and that the team had withdrawn its lawsuit against Mientkiewicz, who played for the New York Mets in 2005.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's office filed a grievance against Mientkiewicz yesterday, asserting that he does not own the ball. Unless the grievance is settled, arbitrator Shyam Das will hear the case.
''The players' association strongly believed that this dispute belonged in the grievance procedure," MLB Players' Association general counsel Michael Weiner told the Associated Press.
Mientkiewicz had agreed to loan the ball to the Red Sox last January so the club could display it across New England. As part of Friday's agreement, he waived a provision that required the team to return the ball Jan. 1.
MLB and union lawyers will meet to set a date for the hearing.
The decision was made days after the Red Sox agreed to drop a lawsuit against Mientkiewicz, who signed with the Kansas City Royals this week after one season with the New York Mets, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this month, the Red Sox filed suit against him in Suffolk Superior Court to regain possession of the ball, which was tossed underhand to him by Foulke to end the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox swept St. Louis to win their first title in 86 years.
The suit called for Mientkiewicz to surrender the ball so it could be placed in a secure location until its ownership was decided.
Team lawyers argued that Mientkiewicz obtained the ball only because he was a Red Sox employee and that it was rightfully the club's property.
Mientkiewicz has said he did not expect the controversy surrounding the ball.