Noted ump strikes out in baseball scam

Feb. 24, 2004 at 2:58 PM

NEW YORK, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A former U.S. big-league umpire has admitted to selling collectors bogus balls of history-making events, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

Al Clark, 56, a major league for 26 years, pleaded guilty in Newark federal court Monday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He also agreed to pay $40,000 in restitution to fans who paid at least $2,000 per ball.

From 1995 through 1998, prosecutors said, he passed off the fakes as the real deal in such storied baseball moments as:

-- Cal Ripken tying and breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games records on Sept. 5-6, 1995.

-- Dwight Gooden's May 14, 1996, no-hitter for the Yankees.

-- Nolan Ryan's 300th career victory on July 31, 1990.

-- Yankee Bucky Dent's home run in the Oct. 2, 1978, American League East playoff tiebreaker with the Boston Red Sox.

-- Former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu's first major-league game ball.

"People wanted a small piece of the great American pastime. Instead, they had their pockets picked," Newark U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.

Clark remains free on $50,000 bail.

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