BOSTON (AP) – Controversy is once again dogging the fate of the ball used to make the final out of a Boston Red Sox World Series championship.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon repeated to the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American newspaper a story he first told a Boston cable television station: that his dog ate the ball he used to strike out Colorado Rockies pinch hitter Seth Smith on Oct. 28 and clinch Boston’s second title in four years.

“He plays with baseballs like they are his toys. His name is Boss,” Papelbon told the newspaper for last Sunday’s editions. “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 a similar tale to the New England Sports Network for a story that aired Nov. 30 – but with a slightly different ending.

Papelbon told the station that he threw what was left of the ball in the trash.

“It’s in the garbage in Florida somewhere,” he said.

The Red Sox own an 80 percent stake in NESN.

The fate of the last ball became an issue in 2004 when the Red Sox swept St. Louis in the World Series to end an 86-year championship drought.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who caught the final out from pitcher Keith Foulke, kept the ball. The team wanted it back. Mientkiewicz eventually agreed to lend the ball to the Red Sox for a year and then donated it to the Hall of Fame.

The Red Sox aren’t particularly concerned with what happened to the 2007 last-out ball.

“The 2004 ball is obviously very special to us because it was the club’s first World Series win in 86 years,” team spokesman John Blake said. “This ball was in the hands of one of the players and we take his word at what happened to it, but it’s a non-issue as far as the club’s concerned.”

The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. has a bunch of Red Sox memorabilia from the 2007 World Series, including Papelbon’s glove, but the ball isn’t among it.

“We did not ask for the ball,” spokesman Jeff Idelson said. “We were more focused on other items.”

Papelbon wasn’t in Boston and wasn’t immediately available for comment, Blake said. His agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Papelbon struck out Smith to end Game 4 of the World Series, then catcher Jason Varitek slipped the ball into his back pocket during on-field celebrations. Varitek said after the game that he’d give the ball to the team, but a few days later said he’d given it to Papelbon.

AP-ES-12-20-07 1933EST

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