Re-sale drops value of Wilt's ball by nearly $500,000

Friday, October 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The second time around, Kerry Ryman's basketball turned out to be a lot less appealing to bidders.

Ryman's prize from Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game sold at auction for $67,791 on Friday, nearly a half million dollars less than it attracted in its original sale last April. The first sale for $551,844 was canceled when questions were raised about the authenticity of the ball.

Ryman would have received about $490,000 from the first sale. He will get just under $59,000 from the second one.

``I'm kind of relieved it's over,'' he said in a telephone interview from his home in Annville, Pa. ``I'm not disappointed. What's money?''

Leland's spokesman Marty Appel said the ball was purchased by a prominent East Coast sports memorabilia collector and that the person who made the successful bid in April did not participate this time.

``What happened?'' Ryman wondered. ``Why would somebody bid $500,000 the first time and then nothing? That's the way life goes. It ends up somebody bought it. Hopefully, they'll be happy.''

Ryman has insisted throughout that the ball he had was the one Chamberlain used to score the final basket in his 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks March 2, 1962 at Hershey, Pa.

He was 14 years old and seated at courtside that night. ``In those days, you could get on the floor,'' he said. ``I ran on the floor and shook Wilt's hand. The ref threw the ball to him. He bounced it once. I took it and ran.''

In the small community of Hershey, Ryman said everyone knew he had the ball and Leland's gathered a number of affidavits in its investigation confirming his account.

None of that, however, will convince Harvey Pollack, a longtime employee of the Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers, who was also at courtside that night. Pollack said he doesn't know what ball Ryman had, just that it wasn't the 100-point ball.

``I saw Willie Smith, the referee, who's now dead, give the ball to Wilt, who gave it Tommy McCoy, the trainer, who gave it to Jeff Millman, the equipment manager. He took the ball and put it in Wilt's duffle bag in the locker room. They finished the game, the last 46 seconds, with a replacement ball.

``After the game, Millman gave the ball to Wilt and he said `Have everybody in the room sign it.' Then the team took the ball back to the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia and it was put on display for three months in a hotel window.''

That summer, the Warriors were sold to interests in San Francisco and Pollack said team owner Eddie Gottlieb shipped all of the team's records and belongings out west.

Was the Chamberlain ball included?

``I don't think so,'' Pollack said. ``I think he called Wilt and Wilt got the ball.''

Pollack doesn't remember Ryman or anyone else swiping any ball at the game's end. ``If he got any ball,'' Pollack said, ``he got the second ball.''

In its catalog offering the Chamberlain ball for auction, Leland's said it recognizes that in the confusion at game's end, Ryman might not have seen the balls switched and might have swiped the replacement ball.

Ryman steadfastly denied that.

``The ball they finished the game with was the one they signed in the locker room,'' he said. ``I was long gone with the ball he used to score the 100th point.''

If Ryman got the replacement ball, Pollack had more bad news.

``After he scored the 100th point, Wilt just stood at midcourt,'' Pollack said. ``He never touched that second ball.''