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Wild in the streets
Three people claim to be rightful owner of Sosa's 62nd homer
Posted: Tuesday September 15, 1998 01:32 PM
When Sammy Sosa launched his 62nd home run onto Waveland Avenue on Sunday, dozens of Cubs fans made a pile, then bit and kicked and punched until one guy emerged with the baseball.
Three people now claim to be the rightful owner, but police said Monday possession is 10-tenths of the law in this case and whoever has the ball now can keep it.
"Only in Chicago," sighed Officer Cindy Lance, a police spokeswoman, who said the affair was no longer considered a police matter.
The homer left lumps on fans and Sosa tied with McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals for the major league home run lead.
As Sosa has closed in on the home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961, the crowd outside the ball park has swelled to the hundreds.
When Sosa hit No. 61 in the fifth inning Sunday, John Witt of Dixon grabbed the ball and hid in a van after outrunning the pack of ball-catchers outside the park.
Witt also won fame a few years ago for appearing in a Spike Lee commercial for Nike.
Dave Miedema, a writer for a sports collectors' magazine, said he bought Witt's historic baseball for "a sizable four figures."
When Sosa hit that homer, Bob Milkovich was watching on TV at home with his wife, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant. He had stayed close to home in recent days but wanted to be there in case Sosa hit another.
"I says, 'Honey, you mind if I go for a bike ride?'"
She didn't, and off Milkovich went, armed with a pager, cellular phone, tiny TV and camera with telephoto lens.
Fans were crowded around Milkovich's 2-by-2 television screen when Sosa hit the ninth-inning blast to tie McGwire's record-breaking mark.
"It looked like we had the winner," Milkovich said.
"So I'm running to my left with the TV in my hand and everybody following me. ... The ball just kind of streamed over and when it hits the alley there's just a sea of people," he said.
"There's a group of people just immersed over somebody who got the ball. Usually, somebody gets a ball, the struggle stops. But in this situation, I think there were dollar signs," he said. "This was the biggest home run ball you'd ever catch."
The battle continued until one man, later identified as Brendan Cunningham, 33, a mortgage broker from suburban Buffalo Grove, emerged with the ball hidden under his shirt, escaped the crowd and took off.
"As he's running away from me, 500 people took off after him," Milkovich said. "It was pretty scary."
Cunningham found some police officers a half-mile or more from the park, and they whisked him away for protection.
Delivery truck driver Gary "Moe" Mullins, who claimed to have grabbed the ball first, later showed up at a police station to complain that he had been robbed of the ball. Police at the station said Mullins, 47, had been bitten and kicked and appeared to have a broken hand.
Mullins, who has caught thousands of balls in the more than 30 years he's been a game-day fixture on the sidewalks outside Wrigley Field, later said he was considering a civil lawsuit to recover the ball.
To further complicate matters, Jose Rivera, who turned 16 the day after the game, is also claiming to be the first person to catch the ball.
There may be no real way to prove who has No. 62. After McGwire broke the record, Major League Baseball stopped putting a secret code on balls pitched to him and Sosa."Now you know how Elvis and the Beatles felt. Or the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain," Milkovich said. "I never did that, but I did it yesterday."
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