Doug Mientkiewicz should have been so lucky.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who is not above having a little fun, recently told a newspaper in Mississippi a story he'd first tried out weeks ago on NESN, that the ball he used to record the final out of the 2007 World Series was torn apart by his dog, Boss, a fresh twist on the dog-ate-my-homework routine practiced by legions of schoolkids, and possibly just as credible.
The last time the ball made a public appearance, catcher Jason Varitek stuck it in his back pocket after Papelbon struck out Seth Smith of the Colorado Rockies for the final out of Game 4 in Denver. Varitek later said he gave the ball to Papelbon, and the closer did several interviews in which he said he didn't know what became of the ball.
Now, in an interview with the Hattiesburg American, the newspaper in the town in which Papelbon lives in the offseason, he blamed the ball's disappearance on Boss, a bulldog.
"He plays with baseballs like they are his toys," Papelbon told the newspaper. "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."
Papelbon told NESN he threw away the remnants of the ball. "It's in the garbage in Florida somewhere," he said.
Mientkiewicz was caught up in controversy when he kept the ball from the final out of the 2004 World Series, eventually mediating a settlement with Sox officials in which they jointly donated the ball to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Sox didn't care much about what happened to this one. "The '04 ball obviously was very special," Sox spokesman John Blake said yesterday. "This one ended up in the hands of one of our players, and we take him at his word as to what happened to it. To us, it's a nonissue."
Jeff Idelson, the vice president of communications for the Hall of Fame, said he never asked Varitek for the ball when he was collecting items for the Hall's collection after the Series. The last ball doesn't usually rank high on his list of items to retrieve. And as Idelson noted to the Globe last month, now no one will ever really know what happened to the last ball of the '07 Series.
"I have no idea where the ball is," Idelson said. "It's now in the same place as Bobby Thomson's home run ball [in 1951] or Carlton Fisk's ball in 1975. It's lost forever. Because it wasn't authenticated at the time, how would you ever know now if it's the actual ball?"
Papelbon didn't respond to e-mails last night seeking comment. He probably was out wrestling alligators or catching the biggest catfish ever seen in Mississippi.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report; Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.