BOSTON -- You've seen the ball on countless highlight clips ever since that magical night of Oct. 27, when the Red Sox finally won the World Series at Busch Stadium.

Closer Keith Foulke fielded it, ran toward first and flipped it to Doug Mientkiewicz. Where is that ball now?

As it turns out, Mientkiewicz still has it.

"I've got it," Mientkiewicz told The Boston Globe. "It's in a safety deposit box with my Olympic Gold Medal [2000]. We had it authenticated by Major League Baseball the day after the World Series so no one can claim they have it. That's my retirement fund. A guy offered me 500 bucks for it, but I think it's worth more than that."

However, Mientkiewicz called Boston sports radio station WEEI-850 AM on Friday morning to clear the air and present what he felt was a more accurate side of the story.

Mientkiewicz said that the retirement fund line was made completely "in jest and that [Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy] was laughing, too. I thought it was going to be a light-hearted article."

The Red Sox do want the ball back to show to their fans.

"We're going to make a request of him to return it to us," Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino told The Globe. "We want it to be part of Red Sox archives or museums so it can be shared with the fans. We would hope he would understand the historical nature of it."

"I know this ball has a lot of sentimental value," Mientkiewicz said in The Globe article. "This is something that took 86 years, and 86 years is a long time. Personally, I went through hell and back this year. But winning the World Series is something I'm going to remember for a long time."

In his radio interview, Mientkiewicz said that nobody from the Red Sox organization had called him to ask for the ball, though he certainly said he would keep an open mind.

"If Mr. Lucchino wants to talk to me about the ball personally, he has my phone number," said Mientkiewicz. "He can call me. Of course I want Red Sox fans to see the ball. That's the main reason I hung on to the darned thing is that I want people to see it."

It is commonplace for players to hold on to baseballs after the last out of a game, be it in the regular season or in the postseason. Mientkiewicz also fielded the final out of Game 7 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium and presented that ball to winning pitcher Derek Lowe.

"If they'd like to show it to fans, I'd be more than happy to," Mientkiewicz told WEEI. "Hell, I'll stand out there myself and show it to everybody. I understand the significance of that ball."

Who exactly has legal ownership of the ball?

"Doug Mientkiewicz owns the baseball and we authenticated it," Carmine Tiso, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, told The Globe. "Anything beyond that would be between the Red Sox and Doug Mientkiewicz."

Lucchino never said the Red Sox owned the ball. He simply said they would like to have it.

"This is a gray area as to what players think they can take with them," Lucchino told The Globe. "We're going to ask Doug for the ball. I think it would be a nice gesture on his part to return it to Red Sox Nation."

Mientkiewicz said that he hardly plans on holding the ball ransom. If fans want to see it, he'd love to make that happen.

"Today I finally heard something from the Red Sox. [Owner John] Henry and I talked about it, and that's all I'm going to say about it. But not before this, not before the article. It's a shame it has to come out through the paper, which, to me, is crazy," Mientkiewicz said in his radio interview. "It's something that Red Sox fans should want to see and I want them to see that. Would you rather have one person have it and run away with it and never have a chance to see it again? That's kind of why I kept it, so it's in a player's hands and I can do with it what I may."

It is unclear whether Mientkiewicz will be back with the Red Sox in 2005. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has said numerous times this winter that one of his first basemen (Mientkiewicz or Kevin Millar) will be traded for a prospect. Epstein thinks both players deserve to be starters.

While the ending was sweet, 2004 was not one of the better years for Mientkiewicz. He hit .246 in 78 games for the Twins before being dealt to the Red Sox on July 31 in the four-team blockbuster that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. Mientkiewicz had sporadic playing time with the Sox, serving mainly as a defensive replacement. Mientkiewicz hit .215 for the Sox with one homer and 10 RBIs in 107 at-bats.

He'd love to have a chance to improve his performance in Boston in 2005, but realizes he could be headed elsewhere.

Mientkiewicz, who spent the early part of Friday working out in preparation for next season, said he was surprised to hear that the ball he caught more than two months ago was causing making such big news in Boston.

"I didn't want people thinking something of me that I'm not," said Mientkiewicz at the conclusion of his radio interview. "That's why I came on the air. There's a lot of better things we should be talking about than this situation we're in right now. We have a hell of a team coming back and we have a chance to make it two in a row. That's what I'm focusing on and what everyone else should be focusing on too."