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Fan Loans McGwire’s 70th to Museum

October 5, 1998

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The fan who ended up with Mark McGwire’s record 70th home run ball has loaned it to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame while he decides what to do with it.

The ball, which is worth millions of dollars on the collectibles market, will be on display indefinitely starting next Monday at the museum that shares space with the Bowling Hall of Fame across the street from Busch Stadium.

Gerald Baltz, the museum’s executive director, said at a news conference Monday he expects to have the ball for a month or so.

By that time, Baltz expects that Phil Ozersky, a 26-year-old DNA lab researcher from suburban Olivette, will have decided what to do with the prize. Ozersky said he’d like the ball to end up at Cooperstown, but then again he’s not as willing as some of the other lucky ball recipients to just give it away.

``It’s been pretty intense with the media, and I’m starting to figure out what Mr. McGwire felt like at the end of the season,″ Ozersky said. ``If he needs four months to figure out how he felt about his 70 home runs, I need a little time to bask in the glow.″

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization and does not pay for items displayed. But Ozersky could have it both ways by selling the ball to a well-heeled individual who wouldn’t mind the positive publicity to be gained from donating it to the Hall of Fame. Another option: selling sponsors for a ball tour.

Ozersky’s attorney, David Krathen of Miami, said his client has received countless proposals since snaring No. 70 in the St. Louis Cardinals’ finale Sept. 27. There’s been everything but a call from McGwire, who has said he’s not interested in paying for the ball.

``He’s been besieged by agents, auctions houses, individuals,″ Krathen said. ``You name it, they’ve contacted us.

``I think the right thing to do is take your time, take a deep breath, step back and see what the various options are.″

Ozersky said it’s hard to believe how much people are willing to pay.

``It’s a $9 ball,″ Ozersky said. ``It’s pretty amazing to think about it.″

For now, it’ll be front and center at the museum in a glass case that also includes the bat McGwire used to hit his 400th career home run, a large photograph of Ozersky holding his prize, and several photographs of McGwire launching the record shot off Carl Pavano of the Montreal Expos. The exhibit is called ``Hunt for the Long Ball.″

The case is protected by electronic sensors and there are several other security measures in place, including an around-the-clock police guard, to ensure that nobody walks off with the ball.

``This is not just a baseball, this is history,″ police chief Ronald Henderson said. ``We will do whatever it takes to make sure this ball is secured.″

At first, Ozersky didn’t take any precautions. The night he caught it, he slept with it, then he toted it around town for various TV interviews and to show it to co-workers at Washington University who were with him in a party box at the game.

``I was out of the box so fast, nobody got a chance to see the ball,″ Ozersky said. ``I was going to meet Jack Buck and get the ball authenticated.″

The ball then spent a night each in a safe and a safety deposit box, and has been in a vault at the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame since then.

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