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Lucky Catch-22

HR balls provide different experiences for two fans

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Wednesday September 16, 1998 04:44 PM

  John Witt Holds up Sammy Sosa's 61st home run ball AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Deni Allen, the St. Louis Cardinals' fan who caught Mark McGwire's 60th home run ball, is having trouble sleeping lately.

So is John Witt, the Chicago man who snagged Sammy Sosa's 61st home run ball.

But the two blame their sleep deprivation on different things.

Witt's been too excited to sleep. He sold the baseball after the game to a Chicago sports collector for $7,500.

Allen, 22, has spent some sleepless nights because he figures he lost a lot of money.

Witt's a veteran Chicago Cubs "ballhawk" who estimates he's snagged about 1,700 balls on Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field since the early 1980s. Of those he caught, Sosa's was the most valuable.

"I just got a divorce, and I really needed that money," said Witt, an unemployed father of two who lives in Dixon, Illinois, about 100 miles west of Chicago.

He only wishes that Sosa had reached 61 home runs before McGwire had. If that had happened, Witt said his ball might have fetched $250,000 to $300,000 at auction.

Allen has had a different experience. He gave the ball back to McGwire in exchange for a few autographed bats and balls and the opportunity to take some swings at a Cardinals batting practice.

He said he started losing sleep when the reality sank in.

"When I heard that ball might have fetched $250,000 in an auction, I just felt -- uggggh," Allen said, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

He doesn't like second-guessing himself and he's proud that his original decision was not influenced by money.

But he now wishes he could have the moment, if not the ball, back.

"I was definitely drunk with excitement," Allen said. "I was really caught up in the whole Big Mac essence."

Witt said he respected Allen's choice. But, he concedes, even if he had been younger and without financial responsibilities, he doubts he would have donated the ball to a millionaire ballplayer.

Witt said that makes as much sense as returning a winning lottery ticket.

"It was my ball and my decision to sell it," he said. "If people want to call me greedy, that's their problem."  

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