BOSTON (AP) – The Red Sox asked a judge to let the team keep the ball that Doug Mientkiewicz caught for the final out that clinched Boston’s 2004 World Series title.

Ownership of the ball has been in dispute during the 13 months since pitcher Keith Foulke flipped it to Mientkiewicz, giving Boston a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and its first World Series championship in 86 years.

Mientkiewicz, who clutched the ball in his glove and joined teammates in celebration, later put the ball in a safe deposit box and claimed ownership when the Red Sox asked for it.

In January, after he was traded to the New York Mets, he loaned the ball to the Red Sox for one year. He would get it back “unless the ultimate issue of ownership has been otherwise resolved,” the agreement said.

Lawyers for the Red Sox filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court asking the court to keep the ball or place it in some other “secure location” until a judge decides the ownership question.

“The Red Sox continue to assert that their former employee, Mientkiewicz, obtained the baseball through the course of his employment, that he acquired no ownership interest and that the Red Sox are the rightful owners of the baseball,” the lawsuit stated.

After Mientkiewicz agreed to loan the ball to the team, it was delivered to Fenway Park in a Brinks armored truck. The ball then joined the World Series trophy on a tour of Massachusetts cities and towns.

“I want the fans to see it,” Mientkiewicz said at the time, “and that’s what both the Red Sox and I agreed on.”

The agreement said proceeds derived from exhibiting the ball would be donated to the Red Sox Foundation, the team’s charitable arm.

Greg Landry, Mientkiewicz’s agent, declined comment.

“We have made numerous approaches to the Mientkiewiczes and to their representatives, to seek an amicable private settlement, and to ensure that this piece of club history remains accessible to all our fans,” Red Sox lawyer Lucinda Treat said in a statement released Thursday, adding that the organization holds no ill-will toward Mietkiewicz. “All were rebuffed. That is why we now seek a judgment.”

The organization intends to display the ball for its fans and has no desire to gain any commercial benefit, the statement said.

AP-ES-12-01-05 1944EST

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