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What Would No. 62 Be Worth to You?

Sept. 07, 1998
Sept. 07, 1998

Table of Contents
Sept. 7, 1998

What Would No. 62 Be Worth to You?

Your mouth is bloody. A couple of your fingers are bent in three
directions. Your watch is gone. But you came out with it.

This is an article from the Sept. 7, 1998 issue Original Layout

Mark McGwire's 62nd.

Now people are pulling on you as if you're saltwater taffy. The
security goons want you to come with them--right now. Some guy in
an Italian double-breasted is offering you $500,000 for it, cash,
right now. Three TV hairsprays are trying to interview you, your
wife may or may not have fainted, and two unshavens have just
bum-rushed you, trying to swipe the ball.

Panicked, you throw an elbow, spin 180 degrees and jailbreak it
up the aisle, out the exit and into the parking lot, where you
lock yourself in somebody's Winnebago. You need a second to
think. The Winnebago owner is threatening you with a grilled
kielbasa, and a very angry parade is right behind him. You're
staring blankly at the dashboard, onto which the owner has Super
Glued two five-inch action figures. One is Ty Cobb. The other is
Babe Ruth.

Suddenly they start to glow. And move. And speak!

"You gotta give the ball to McGwire, kid," says the little Ruth.
"It's the right thing to do."

You clean out your ears, rub your eyes and shake your head. That
was a nasty bump you took.

"Don't be a sucker!" pipes the little Cobb, hopping up and down.
"McGwire's not gonna give you any money for it! He said, and I
quote, 'If somebody's going to hold this ball hostage for a
dollar sign, you can take it home with you.' Easy for him to say,
huh? Makin' almost $10 million a year. I mean, if some fool paid
$500,000 for Eddie Murray's 500th, you'll get millions for this
baby!"

"This ain't about money!" roars Ruth, poking Cobb in his tiny
chest. "It's about morals! If McGwire hadn't hit it, that ball's
just a chunk of cowhide. He oughta have it. He'd give you all the
signed junk you want. Plus, you'd be his pal for life."

"Listen!" yells Cobb, pointing at you. "Whaddya pull down a year,
$25,000 tops? You got a car that still runs on leaded. Your wife
ain't had a new dress since the Nixon Administration. Your kids'
teeth look like Stonehenge. You can't afford somebody else's
morals!"

The tiny Ruth throws Cobb against the air freshener.

"You don't want that ball sittin' in some greasy billionaire's
den forever!" shouts Ruth. "Look, a Florida man caught Barry
Bonds's 400th home run last week and gave it straight to Bonds,
even though a guy in the stands offered him $5,000. Orel
Hershiser was so impressed, he gave the guy the five grand
anyway!"

"Right," says Cobb. "Like Ron Gant is gonna rip you a check for a
million. Hey! What about the kid who caught Roger Maris's 61st?
Sal Durante? He went out and got what he could for it."

"And what has Sal Durante been doing the last 30 years?" asks
Ruth.

"Driving a bus."

"See!" Ruth yells, really mad now. "Why's this gotta be about
greed?"

"Because baseball is about greed!" Cobb bites back. He turns to
you and says, "McGwire was one of the players who went on strike
when the average salary was, what, more than $1 million? Free
agents sell out teammates and fans every year for greed. Why do
you think that ball you're holding is marked with a stamp that
can only be seen in ultraviolet light? Because nobody else is
thinking about money? If you give it back, you'll be the only guy
in this without greed."

"O.K., so give it to the Hall of Fame," says Ruth.

"Nah. If you're too stupid to sell it, why not open up a store at
the Mall of America and charge people $5 to hold it? You could
sell stuff, too. McGwire T-shirts, McGwire sweat bands, Andro-6.
You'd make a killin'!"

"Why, I oughta--"

The two tiny figures start to wrestle.

You think hard. Suddenly you snatch them up and zip them into
your waist pouch. You unlock the Winnebago door and walk out,
flipping the ball to the man with the kielbasa as the crowd
gasps. From your waist pouch, you can hear the muffled Cobb and
Ruth yelling, "What'd you do that for?"

A very large smile is on your face.

"Screw the ball," you say. "Do you have any clue how much I'm
gonna make with you two?"

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]
"This ain't about money!" roars Ruth, poking Cobb in his tiny
chest. "It's about morals!"