Fan Returns Tatis Grand Slam Ball
Apr. 24, 1999
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ All month long, fans in the Dodger Stadium pavilion seats have thrown back home runs hit by opposing players. Not this time.
Michael Lerner, who works in the fish business and lives in Simi Valley, Calif., snagged the biggest catch of his life on Friday night _ even though someone else actually made the grab.
Michael Lerner, who attended the game with his two sons, wound up with the ball Fernando Tatis hit into the left field pavilion for his second grand slam of the third inning. It made the Cardinals' third baseman the first player in history to hit two slams in one inning.
``This ball belongs in the Hall of Fame. That's what's important,'' Lerner said in a hallway leading to the Cardinals' clubhouse after the 12-5 victory over the Dodgers. ``This was history. I mean, this has never been done in the history of the game.''
When Tatis' second slam landed in the lower seats of the left field pavilion, a mad scramble for the ball ensued. A young fan got his hands on the precious ball first, but Lerner negotiated it away from him with offers of $40, $60 and then $80.
``It was bedlam there. Everybody knew what was going on,'' Lerner said. ``I got a few bruises.
An usher who was on the scene wrote something on Lerner's ticket stub to authenticate it, then escorted Lerner and his party to the Cardinals' clubhouse, where the ball was placed inside a bag. It was then taken up to the stadium security department, where it was locked up until the end of the game.
After the final out, in front of a horde of media, Tatis autographed the uniform shirt he wore in the game and handed it to Lerner as a reward for the ball. Six baseballs were then brought out to Tatis, which the Cardinals' third baseman also autographed in front of Lerner and his sons, Kevin, 7, and Randy, 13.
``I just want to tell you that we're big-time baseball fans,'' Lerner told Tatis, ``and I hope you put the ball in the Hall of Fame.''