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Pirates

Fan buys first HR ball at PNC Park

| Tuesday, May 15, 2001

This sounds funny coming from someone who just paid $9,400 for a used baseball, but George Ryden insists it is true.

'Sometimes money isn't everything,' Ryden said Monday, less than 48 hours after he bought the ball that Sean Casey of the Cincinnati Reds hit for the first home run at PNC Park last month.

'What I paid for it is what it's worth to me.'

Ryden, who owns the Baseball Card Palace in Brentwood, purchased the ball Saturday from Dargate Auction Galleries after a live Internet auction failed to produce a required minimum bid of $8,000.

Ryden was at Dargate's on Baum Boulevard in East Liberty during the auction. When it ended without a sale, bidders were told they could purchase the ball for $8,000, plus a buyer's premium of $1,400. After conferring with his wife for a few minutes, Ryden decided to do it. 'I'm impulsive sometimes,' he said.

Ryden said he came to the auction planning to spend no more than $6,000 for what he considers 'a unique piece of Pittsburgh history.'

Although he has been in the sports memorabilia business for 23 years, Ryden said he did not buy the ball with any intention to sell it later. Instead, he plans to keep the baseball in Pittsburgh where he says it belongs. He will display it at his shop and when he travels to sports memorabilia shows.

The baseball eventually may become part of a small museum of local Pittsburgh sports that Ryden said he hopes to open.

The ball that Casey hit into the rightfield bleachers on April 9 was actually thrown back onto the field by the first person who had it. But Pirates centerfielder Adrian Brown picked it up and threw it back in the bleachers where Michael Wilmer of Point Breeze eventually got it.

Casey, a native of Upper St. Clair, offered Reds memorabilia (including items signed by Ken Griffey, Jr.) for the ball, but Wilmer wanted $5,000 for it. Casey refused and Wilmer eventually agreed to put the ball up for sale via auction.

To Ryden, the ball has increased value because it was not only the first home run at the new park, but also the first hit.

'It's not for sale,' Ryden said Monday. 'Absolutely not. I want it for myself. I'm from Pittsburgh, I was at that game.

'How can you actually put a price tag on it?'

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