Mark McGwire topped the Babe and Sammy again Tuesday when a mysterious voice on an auction house phone won an electric bidding war for his 70th home-run ball.
CBS News Correspondent Richard Kaledin reports that the home-run ball sold for $3.05 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.
Guernsey's auction house sold the ball to an anonymous bidder 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.
"$3 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.
Sammy Sosa's final home run of the season, his 66th, sold for $150,000.
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.
"I'm in awe," said Ozersky, who promised to share some of his good fortune with charities. "I mean, whoever thought that a $10 baseball would be worth $2.7 million?"
Hank Aaron's 755th career homer - his last -- was withdrawn from Tuesday's sale after bidding reached only $800,000.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.
| Phillip Ozersky, who caught Mark McGwire's 70th home-run ball, reportedly turned down $1 million from private collectors. (AP) |
A ball said to be Mickey Mantle's 500th homer, hit May 14, 1967, also was withdrawn from sale after questions arose about its authenticity.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 done 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 proerty from the ballpark. What's more, Arndt had $5 deducted from his final paycheck to cover the cost of the baseball.
Some have said the 1998 baseball season can be credited with returning the game to the greatness it had lost. After Tuesday night's auction, it seems that fans are willing to pay anything for their love of baseball.