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Wilt's Stolen Ball Fetches $551,844

NEW YORK (AP) — The ball Wilt Chamberlain used to score a record 100 points proved more valuable than anyone expected — it sold at auction today for $551,844.

Leland's auction house would not say who bought the stolen ball, except to identify him as ``well-known figure outside the world of sports.''

But he and Kerry Ryman, who ran off with the ball 38 years ago, are off the hook. The statute of limitations on the theft ran out in 1975.

Ryman, now 52, grabbed the ball in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962, after congratulating Chamberlain. He scaled a fence and outran an arena security guard with his prize.

Chamberlain, who died last October, told a security guard to let Ryman keep the ball.

``He feels so guilty about it,'' Leland's president Josh Evans said. ``I told him, `Who cares?' He was caught up in the moment.''

At first, Leland's thought the ball would sell for $25,000 to $100,00. But soon it became apparent the range was way too low.

Leland's will receive a 15 percent commission that totals $82,650 plus a negotiable seller's fee.

The final bid was the most ever paid for a basketball, and the third highest for a sports item at auction, according to Leland's.

No. 1 was the ball Mark McGwire hit for his 70th homer in 1998. That sold for $3.05 million. Second was a 1910 Honus Wagner baseball card at $640,500.

Leland's conducts its auctions by phone, fax and e-mail. The purloined basketball — used since the record game — became the hit of the lot, which included more than 700 items.

``It's the publicity,'' Evans said from his seventh-floor office as six of his employees answered phone calls and checked Internet messages.

``The publicity and the feat. One-hundred points! It's a record that never will be broken. It's as if Mark McGwire hit 100 home runs.''

Ted Williams' 1941 uniform — the season in which he batted .406 — sold for $120,097. A game-used Lou Gehrig cap went for $75,386. And the ball that Mookie Wilson hit through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a part of actor Charlie Sheen's collection, fetched $63,945.

Babe Ruth's last will and testament sold for $31,971, and his 1916 World Series award for $62,618. Prices include a 15 percent buyer's premium.

Evans said the Chamberlain ball is not the most valuable in terms of memorabilia.

``Michael Jordan's last shot before retiring. That ball is worth $1 million,'' Evans estimated.

Also up in the top three, according to Evans, was the ball John Havlicek deflected on an inbound pass on the last play of the last game of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals. That preserved a Boston victory over Philadelphia and sent the Celtics on their to way the championship.

Play-by-play announcer Johnny Most's call of ``Havlicek stole the ball'' became part of sports history.

When a 14-year-old boy ran out of the arena after Chamberlain's historic game, someone yelled, ``Hey, a kid stole the ball.''

He long since stopped running, and today he finally gave up the ball.


On the Net: http:// www.lelands.com

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