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Outta here again!
Mac's 70th fetches $3 million, including commission
Posted: Tuesday January 12, 1999 11:58 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mark McGwire topped the Babe and Sammy again.
McGwire's 70th home run ball sold at auction Tuesday night for more than $3 million -- well above November's record price of $126,500 for a ball that Babe Ruth hit for the first home run in Yankee Stadium.
An anonymous telephone bidder bought McGwire's record home run ball, which was sold by Guernsey's auction house at a special sale at Madison Square Garden.
The total price includes the bid of $2.7 million plus a $305,000 commission to the auction house, bringing the total to $3,005,000.
Sammy Sosa's final home run of the season, his 66th, sold for $150,000, plus a 15 percent commission, bringing the total price to $172,500.
When the price on the McGwire ball reached $1.6 million, the auction came down to a one-on-one bidding battle between the invisible phone voice and Irwin Sternberg, president of Stonehenge, Ltd., manufacturers of fine neckwear.
The two went back and forth in increments of $100,000 until Sternberg stopped at $2.6 million. Later, Sternberg said he was sorry he didn't go higher.
"I think the person on the line didn't have a bottom line," he said. "If it went to $3 million, it would be $3.1 million."
Later, Sternberg paid $60,000 for a ball signed by Babe Ruth and Roger Maris, who were the previous holders of the home run record. He said he would give the ball to the Jimmy V foundation which raises funds for cancer research in the memory of deceased college basketball coach Jim Valvano.
"Three million is an extraordinary accomplishment. It's 23 times the world record for any baseball ever sold, and five to six times the record of any sports artifact," said Arlen Ettinger, president of Guernsey's.
The ball, hit on McGwire's last swing of his record-breaking season, was retrieved at Busch Stadium Sept. 27 by Philip Ozersky, a research scientist at Washington University. He had turned down $1 million from private collectors.
Ozersky seemed calm but in awe of what he had witnessed.
"Who would have thought that a $10 baseball would go for $2 million," he said, inexplicably ignoring about a million dollars the buyer agreed to pay. "I'm excited and overwhelmed.
"I went to a baseball game and all of a sudden this happened."
Also up for sale Tuesday were other home run balls from the 1998 race to the record -- McGwire's No. 63, No. 67 and No. 68, and Sosa's No. 61 -- as well as a ball signed by former record-holder Roger Maris, and the usual run of Ruth and Lou Gehrig items.
Hank Aaron's 755th career homer -- his last -- was withdrawn from sale after bidding reached only $800,000. The minimum auction price apparently was not reached, although the auction house did not disclose what that price was.
A ball said to be Mickey Mantle's 500th homer, hit May 14, 1967, also was withdrawn from sale after questions arose about its authenticity.
In September 1996, the ball Eddie Murray hit for his 500th home run was sold for what one day could be $500,000. Michael Lasky, the founder of the Psychic Friends Network, paid $280,000 that was put in an annuity to be paid over 20 years. With interest, the annuity will be worth about $500,000, according to a spokesman for Lasky, who also operates as syndicated handicapper Mike Warren.
Sosa's No. 66 was sold by Albert Chapa, who grabbed it Sept. 25 at the Astrodome.
Both Ozersky and Chapa were offered autographed paraphernalia in exchange for their historic souvenirs, but they declined.
Ozersky was minding his business, sipping a beer when McGwire turned on the first pitch he saw from Montreal's Carl Pavano in the seventh inning and sent it ricocheting off some metal bleachers, into the Washington University box. There was a scramble, and after Ozersky came up with the ball, he was hustled away by security people.
Chapa took a co-worker to the Cubs-Astros game in the Astrodome. He joked about catching a home run and pledged to be in place each time Sosa came to the plate. A page from a customer had him on the phone for the entire third inning, but when Sosa came up in the fourth, Chapa returned to his seat in time to see Jose Lima serve up No. 66. It bounced off a couple of hands and landed at his feet, much as McGwire's No. 70 would with Ozersky.
Major league baseball secretly marked each ball to certify authenticity. That wasn't necessary with Aaron's No. 755 because at the time, no one knew it would be his last.
Richard Arndt was a groundskeeper at Milwaukee County Stadium when Aaron hit the final home run of his career on July 20, 1976. There was no way to tell it would be the career home run leader's last one, but Arndt wanted to return it. The Brewers, however, refused to set up a meeting, so Arndt refused to return the ball. The decision cost him his job.
Arndt retrieved the ball and was asked to turn it over to the Brewers, who were returning Aaron's home runs to him. The groundskeeper preferred to make the presentation himself and when he was told he couldn't, he took the ball home.
The next day, he was notified by the club that he was being fired for removing club property from the ballpark. What's more, Arndt had $5 deducted from his final paycheck to cover the cost of the baseball.
After it was withdrawn at $800,000, he still has the ball.
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