Historic Aaron 755 ball yet to land

Historic Aaron 755 ball yet to land

MILWAUKEE -- As it became increasingly clear that Hank Aaron's 755th home run would be his last, the baseball became quite a commodity.

Richard Arndt didn't know the value of the ball when he caught it beyond the left field wall at County Stadium on July 20, 1976. At best, he had an idea at the time to make some money.

It resulted in Arndt losing his job.

As the story goes, Arndt, a groundskeeper at County Stadium and fortunate enough to be the first to the ball, wanted to give it to Aaron personally. His bosses initially refused his requests.

As the season progressed and it become more likely that the home run ball was going to be Aaron's last, Arndt decided he wanted to keep it. Aaron increased his efforts to try and regain the ball.

At the time, Aaron was the spokesperson for Magnavox, and he began offering various Magnavox products, signed jerseys and anything he could think of to convince Arndt to sell the ball back. And, Aaron continued to struggle at the plate.

When he retired after only hitting 10 home runs and appearing in 85 games in 1976, Aaron tried a few more times to get the ball back. All attempts were unsuccessful.

With Arndt's steadfast refusals to sell or give Aaron the ball back, the Brewers had enough and fired him at season's end. The team even reportedly docked him $5 from his last paycheck to cover the cost of the ball.

Arndt put the ball in a safe deposit box. Then, years later at an autograph show in Phoenix, Arndt took a risk.

No longer looking like the kid who refused to give the ball up, Arndt marched right up to Aaron and asked for an autograph. For the briefest of moments, Aaron held in his hand the exact ball he spent so long to get back. He had no idea.

Aaron simply signed the ball and moved on to the next one.

"That was sneaky of him," said Brewers bench coach Robin Yount, a former teammate of Aaron's.

Arndt could not be reached for comment. He sold the ball in an auction at Guernsey's in 1999 for $625,000, well below the $850,000 he was originally asking. The buyer of the ball was an investor and portfolio manager from Connecticut named Andrew J. Knuth. Arndt did show compassion for Aaron after the sale by donating 25 percent of the proceeds to Aaron's Chasing the Dream Foundation.

Aaron has long held the ball belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Selig and Yount agree. However, after the ball was sold and 23 years after the story began, the potential for a happy ending finally appeared.

After learning who bought the ball, Aaron made a phone call to Knuth. Whatever was said in that conversation remains unknown, but it's had an effect on Knuth.

"The conversation between him and me, it was very personal conversation," Knuth said. "It was a very nice gesture on his part."

Aaron and Knuth have become acquaintances of sorts since then. Knuth said twice Aaron has flown Knuth and his family to Atlanta, once for the All-Star Game in 2000 and once for Aaron's 65th birthday. They were also at the same wedding in New York in the last year.

So after all that has transpired in the last 30 years, where will the ball end up when Knuth passes on?

"That's a good question," Knuth said. "Maybe the Hall of Fame. It wouldn't surprise me. There are various options ranging from a donation to a loan. We'll see what happens."

And maybe, finally, the story will see its conclusion.

John Sahly is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.