ST. LOUIS (AP) — Catching Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball made Phil Ozersky a rich man. His advice to the lucky fan who snares Barry Bonds’ 756th: Take the money.
“Do what’s right for you,” Ozersky said while taking in Bonds’ chase for Hank Aaron’s home run record from the Busch Stadium press box. “But I definitely am happy with what I did.
“I benefited financially, but a lot of other people benefited, too.”
A lot has changed for Ozersky since he cashed in on a lucky bounce that left the prize ball in his grasp on the final day of the 1998 season. Comic book auteur Todd McFarland paid $3 million for the ball and Ozersky, then a 26-year-old genetic researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, took home $2.7 million after paying a $300,000 auction commission.
Ozersky is married now, and with two young daughters, ages 4 and 2. He’s traveled the world and moved into a larger house in the St. Louis suburbs.
But the windfall hasn’t gone to his head. He’s still working the same job at the school’s genome sequencing center and married the woman who accompanied him to a luxury box just above the left field wall in old Busch Stadium. He chose his new residence largely because his sister lives across the street and has a 13-year-old daughter who can babysit.
And rather than pocket all of the money, he’s spread the wealth, donating $250,000 to charities including the Cardinals’ own Cardinal Care.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping grounded and not changing life too much of how I expected it to play out,” Ozersky said.
The Cardinals had wanted it all, sequestering Ozersky in a meeting room and trying to persuade him to just hand it over to Big Mac. There was an impasse when Ozersky asked to meet McGwire and the Cardinals’ representative said he’d have to relinquish the ball first.