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Sosa’s 62nd Ignites Battle Royal

September 14, 1998

CHICAGO (AP) _ Remember how calmly the guys who caught Mark McGwire’s 61st and 62nd home runs handed them over?

Well, that was St. Louis.

This is Chicago.

So when Sammy Sosa launched his 62nd home run onto Waveland Avenue on Sunday, Cubs fans piled on, then bit and kicked and punched until one guy emerged with the baseball and, in the words of a witness, ``busted outta there like Curtis Enis or Walter Payton.″

Three people now claim to be the rightful owner, but police said Monday that possession is 10-tenths of the law in this case, and whoever has the ball now can keep it.

``Only in Chicago,″ sighed Officer Cindy Lance, a police spokeswoman, who said the affair was no longer considered a police matter.

As Sosa has closed in on the home run record broken by McGwire last week, the crowd outside Wrigley Field has swelled into the hundreds.

When Sosa hit No. 61 in the fifth inning Sunday, Bob Milkovich was watching on TV at home with his wife, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant. He had stayed close to home in recent days, but wanted to be there in case Sosa hit another.

``I says, ’Honey, you mind if I go for a bike ride?‴

She didn’t, and off Milkovich went, armed with a pager, cellular phone, tiny TV and camera with telephoto lens.

Fans were crowded around Milkovich’s 2-by-2 television screen when Sosa hit the ninth-inning blast to tie McGwire’s record-breaking mark.

``It looked like we had the winner,″ Milkovich said.

``So I’m running to my left with the TV in my hand and everybody following me. ... The ball just kind of streamed over and when it hits the alley there’s just a sea of people,″ he said.

``There’s a group of people just immersed over somebody who got the ball. Usually, somebody gets a ball, the struggle stops. But in this situation, I think there were dollar signs,″ he said. ``This was the biggest home run ball you’d ever catch.″

The battle continued until one man emerged with the ball hidden under his shirt, deked the crowd and took off.

``As he’s running away from me, 500 people took off after him,″ Milkovich said. ``It was pretty scary.″

The man found some police officers a half-mile or more from the park, and they whisked him away for protection.

Lance said one man who claimed to have grabbed the ball first showed up at a police station to report a robbery. Police at the station said he had been bitten and kicked, and appeared to have a broken hand.

Witnesses said that was Gary ``Moe″ Mullins, who has caught thousands of balls in the 40 years or so he’s been a game-day fixture on the sidewalks outside Wrigley Field.

Neither Mullins nor a man who claimed to have the ball and was identified on TV Sunday night as Brendan Cunningham could be located Monday.

There may be no real way to prove who has No. 62. After McGwire broke the record, major league baseball stopped putting a secret mark on balls pitched to him and Sosa.

``Now you know how Elvis and the Beatles felt. Or the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain,″ Milkovich said. ``I never did that, but I did it yesterday.″