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A World Record - With a Footnote?

Goleta Company May Brand Bonds Baseball With Asterisk


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Marc Ecko, fashion designer turned owner of the world’s most famous baseball, has turned to Goleta to help him with future plans for Barry Bonds’ record breaking home run ball. Ecko came forward this week as the buyer of the baseball that San Francisco Giants outfielder Bonds hit to break Major League Baseball’s homerun record - considered one of the most sacred records in all of sports - for $750,000.

In true Marc Ecko fashion, he decided to do something a little different - he is leaving the fate of the ball to the public. Ecko has established a website where people can vote on what he should do with the ball. There are three options: bestow the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., brand the ball with an asterisk, “adding a permanent footnote to the record,” and then sending it to Cooperstown, or putting the ball on a rocket ship and launching it into orbit.

Should voters decide to brand the baseball with an asterisk - representing widespread speculation that Bonds used performance enhancing drugs, thus tainting the record - Ecko has called upon a Goleta-based company, BrandNew Industries, to develop the branding iron.

BrandNew received an email from Ecko’s representatives Tuesday, a day after Ecko announced on The Today Show he had won the auction for the ball, which had been caught on Aug. 7 by 22-year-old New Yorker Matt Murphy, who later decided to sell the ball. “We just kind of fell into it,” said BrandNew president Sean Clayton. Clayton and sales manager Scott Swanson weren’t sure exactly how Ecko came across BrandNew, but on the email form filled out, Ecko’s people checked the “through a friend” box.

BrandNew is anything but what their name suggests - the company has been in Goleta since 1987. Currently with less than six full-time employees, the company is one of the leading developers of industrial and craftsman branding equipment. The company creates branding equipment for anything from basketballs and footballs, to wood, leather, plastic, rubber food, soap, wax and more, according to its website. “Literally everything we do is customized,” Swanson said. The branding iron being developed looks similar to a curling iron, and is electrically heated. The brander on the end will be designed spherically, especially for baseballs, and is designed so it’s easy to use.

The company has submitted multiple designs for Ecko to select from, all including an asterisk. Some include the number 756 below the symbol. And now they’re just waiting on the approval from Ecko before they make the mold. A regular spherical branding iron like the one Ecko is asking for would generally run a little over $200, but because of shipping and an expedited process, it will end up costing Ecko a bit more.

Not that he can’t afford it. In 2004, Mark Ecko Enterprises, which includes Ecko’s clothing line, a magazine, production company and other apparel and shoe lines, reported international sales of roughly $1 billion. Ecko was called “stupid” and “an idiot” by Bonds in a San Francisco Chronicle story earlier this week. “He spent $750,000 on the ball and that’s what he’s doing with it? What he’s doing is stupid,” Bonds told the paper. A spokesperson from the Hall of Fame was quoted as saying the ball would be accepted, with or without the asterisk.

BrandNew provides technical help to customers as well, which shouldn’t be needed for branding the baseball. “The equipment is not foolproof, but it’s close,” Swanson said. Thursday Clayton volunteered BrandNew’s services in actually branding the ball - so as not to screw it up. But Swanson doesn’t envy the job of whomever will mark the ball, should it come to that. “I would not want to be the guy who has to brand a $750,000 baseball,” he said. Clayton said that Ecko hopes to do the branding on national television like The Tonight Show or The Late Show.

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