Sports memorabilia can be worth a lot of money. If you own a game-used item that was part of a high-profile moment in sports history, it could be worth millions. But who would’ve thought a simple baseball would sell for $3 million?
A particular ball was part of a memorable moment in MLB history, and a celebrity wanted to make it part of his extensive sports collection. Here’s the story of the most expensive baseball.
Mark McGwire’s MLB career
Mark McGwire had a 16-year MLB career marked by controversy as he allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. Despite how he did it, McGwire sits in 11th place on the all-time home-run list with 583 total. His most famous season came in 1998 when McGwire and Sammy Sosa famously chased Roger Maris’s single-season home run record of 61.
Both players passed that mark, with Sosa — another suspected PED user — knocking 66 balls out of the park that season. But McGwire finished the ’98 season with a then-record 70 home runs. Barry Bonds surpassed this mark three years later after Maris’ record stood for more than 35 years.
The $3 million baseball
McGwire’s 70th home-run ball proved to be a valuable one. It was put up for auction just months after the ’98 season, reports Time. The so-called “crown jewel of sports memorabilia” lived up to its name when it broke the record with a winning baseball bid of $3 million.
In separate deals, several of McGwire and Sosa’s other home-run balls from ’98 — including McGwire’s first, 67th, 68th, and 69th — also sold for a total of about $300,000. All of the baseballs, including the $3 million one, were sold to the same buyer. This person was anonymous at the time of the sales.
In February, though, the anonymous buyer — a self-proclaimed “sports fanatic” — revealed his identity. Once he did, people from the entertainment world easily identified him.
Who bought the $3 million baseball?
The buyer identified himself as Todd McFarlane. He’s best known as a comic book creator who conceived the character Spawn. McFarlane is also known for creating collectible figures based on characters from sports, pop culture, and entertainment industries.
The former minority owner of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers even designed one of the team’s alternate logos. McFarlane is such a sports fan that he was quoted in 1999 as saying he would give up his successful career and “throw it all out tomorrow if [he] could play center field in the major leagues. In a heartbeat.”
McFarlane currently has an estimated net worth of $300 million. He has plenty of money to spend buying sports memorabilia. In addition to spending over $3 million on the most expensive baseball of all time, McFarlane owns several other high-priced pieces.
In 2003, he paid more than $500,000 for Bonds’ 73rd home run ball from the 2001 season. McFarlane later admitted McGwire’s 70th home-run ball was “overpriced.” He said if there wasn’t a bidding war between himself and another guy, it “would have sold for $1.3 million.”