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Photo courtesy Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame LibraryThe National Baseball Hall of Fame accepted Barry Bonds- record-breaking 756th home run ball as a donation from fashion designer and former owner Marc Ecko on Tuesday. The Hall said Wednesday that fans will be able to see the asterisk as part of a future display that will document Bonds- pursuit of former career home run king Hank Aaron.

Barry Bonds will have to face more than one asterisk some day, but baseball fans can come face-to-face with his very first one soon.

Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run ball will be on display in Cooperstown within weeks, and a National Baseball Hall of Fame official said Wednesday that visitors will have the chance to see the asterisk carved into its surface by order of its donor, fashion designer Marc Ecko.

"We will show the asterisk," said Brad Horn, the Hall's senior director of communications and education. "The display will show the entire story, from the time it was hit until the time it landed here in Cooperstown."

A portion of the leather cowhide in the middle of the snow-white ball _ where red seams close in on blue words indicating the level of play _ was removed to create a fat, five-point asterisk. The alteration deletes some letters in the centered, four-line text that starts with the word "OFFICIAL," which is flanked by two solid-blue stars.

The letters "FIC" are missing, and parts of the stars, the "O" and the "L" are cut from the opening line by the three-pronged, top portion of the asterisk.

"MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL" follows, but "LEAGUE" is completely eclipsed, as are the first two letters in "BASEBALL." The asterisk, which uncovers the light-brown inside of the leather coating, also runs into the rounded part of the "R" in "MAJOR."

The third line is a reproduction of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's signature. The asterisk intrudes on all but the "A" and "elig" parts of "Allan H. Selig," which is written in cursive.

In the final line, the letters "MISS" are all that remain in the word "COMMISSIONER."

Horn said the Hall has not designated a specific opening date for the display, which will cover Bonds' pursuit of former Major League Baseball career home run king Hank Aaron.

With the bizarre events that followed Bonds' record-breaking homer off Washington's Mike Bacsik on Aug. 7, 2007, the ball could be a prominent piece of the finished product.

New Yorker Matt Murphy left AT&T Park in San Francisco as the owner of the ball. Murphy sold the ball about a month later, telling The Associated Press that he couldn't pay the taxes required to keep it.

Ecko won an online auction Sept. 15 with a bid of $752,467, then created a website that allowed fans to vote on the ball's fate. The choices were to donate the ball as-is to the Hall, to give it to the Hall after altering its appearance with an asterisk or to launch it into space.

Forty-seven percent of the more than 10 million voters selected the asterisk option, which implies that Bonds broke one of baseball's biggest records with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds, an unsigned free-agent who finished last season at 762 career homers, has been linked to baseball's steroids scandal more than any other player. To date, he has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing associated with allegations of steroids use.

During a November interview with MSNBC, Bonds said he would "never be in the Hall of Fame" should the shrine accept the donation. About a week after the interview, Horn said that Bonds' objection did nothing to change the Hall's agreement with Ecko.

"We don't accept donations with conditions attached," Horn said in November.

In March, then vice president of communications and education Jeff Idelson said the Hall had not heard from Ecko's office for months.

"I said when you guys are ready to donate it, we'll be ready to put it on display," Idelson, who became the Hall's sixth president in its 69-year history April 16, said back then.

A little less than 11 months after Bonds broke the record, the ball arrived in Cooperstown. The end of the road proved equally bumpy, though.

The Hall released a one-paragraph statement Tuesday afternoon that basically said Ecko went back on his word.

"The owner's previous commitment to unconditionally donate the baseball has changed to a loan. As a result, the Hall of Fame will not be able to accept the baseball," part of the statement read. "Should the owner choose to unconditionally donate the ball to the Museum at a future date, we would be delighted and of course accept his offer."

In response to the statement, Ecko told The Associated Press: "I am surprised that the Hall issued a statement that said they would no longer accept the Barry Bonds' 756th home run baseball. We had been in communication with them just this morning and the Hall did not mention that they would change their position and no longer accept the ball.

"Based on the Hall of Fame's previous statements that they would both accept and display the ball, the only open issue we were talking about was the Hall's recent indication of discomfort in displaying it and addressing the controversy surrounding the record."

On Tuesday night, the Hall sent a second release to announce it was in possession of the artifact. Horn said Tuesday that in response to the Hall's initial alert, Ecko released a statement notifying the museum that the ball was en route to Cooperstown.

The Hall also said Tuesday that a letter from Ecko stating his intention to unconditionally donate the artifact accompanied the baseball, which will go on display with "several pieces in our collection that have been unconditionally donated by Barry Bonds and others to reflect the home run record chase."

Dykstra tours Hall

With his son Luke playing at Cooperstown Dreams Park this week, former major league outfielder Lenny Dykstra found some time to take a tour of the Baseball Hall on Tuesday.

Dykstra, 45, played for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies during his 12-year career in the majors. Horn said Dykstra, whose cousin has ties to Hall research director Tim Wiles, approached the shrine to set up Tuesday's tour.

"It's standard practice for us with former major leaguers that, if they do contact us, to show them through the museum," Horn said.

Wiles, who greeted Dykstra, may be best known for his "Casey at the Bat" renditions, which he performs solo during major Hall events such as the annual induction ceremonies and Fame games.

Hall sets lineup

The Hall named former Utica Observer-Dispatch sports editor Craig Muder its director of communications, a position indirectly vacated after Idelson's promotion to president this past spring.

Muder, 39, served the upstate New York newspaper owned by GateHouse Media, Inc. since 1998.

"He joined us Monday as communications director, my former position," said Horn, who became senior director of communications after Idelson moved from vice president of communications and education to Hall president. Idelson replaced Dale Petroskey, who reached a mutual agreement with the Hall's board of directors to step down after nine years as the museum's president.

Horn also said Muder was one of many who expressed interest in the opening.

"We had a great candidate pool and Craig applied for the position along with a number of others," Horn said. "His knowledge of the museum and his passion for the game really shine through in terms of him being a candidate."

Ohio native Muder, a graduate of Kent State, is married with two children.

Horn also said the Hall hired Rochester native Samantha Carr as a media relations coordinator. She replaces Ben Couch, who left the Hall in December. Carr, who worked for Triple-A baseball's Rochester Red Wings, recently earned a master's degree from Syracuse University.

The Hall will post an opening for publications manager in the coming weeks, Horn said, as Adam Jordan departed for the Boston area for "family reasons" on June 20.

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Dean Russin can be reached at drussin@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.

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