Richman turns Buckner's Series boot into $85,000 foot up for charities

Some extraordinary things, all fit for a storybook, evolved after a ball rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series. It was the pivotal play that led to the creation of a baseball miracle, the New York Mets recovering to beat the Boston Red Sox, a team that continues to know interminable torture.

The Buckner boot was just a new way for the Red Sox to lose. As the ball and Buckner evaded each other, it meant the game was over and the Series tied, which gave the Mets the chance to win the grand finale.


The ball, incredulously, became a prized possession. It was to bring a record $85,000 at public auction, plus $8,500 in commission fees. For Arthur Richman, who formerly worked for the New York Mets and is now a senior vice president of the New York Yankees, possessing the memento translated into an enormously happy windfall -- for charity.

Richman could have kept the money but decided there were more important things to do. He then proceeded to make contributions to a diverse list of beneficiaries. Such as:


The Steve Palermo Foundation, the Krieger-Kennedy Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital for research on a disease known as adrenoluko dystrophy (in special memory of the son of umpire John Hirschbeck), the indigent fund of the Association of Professional Baseball Players, the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Society, widows of FBI agents killed in the line of duty, to a group helping the inner-city youth of New York, to St. Andrew's Catholic Church and the work of the Rev. Dan Murphy in Brooklyn, to a chapel at Iona College built by Ed Arrigoni in tribute to his deceased wife, to the Astoria Center of Israel Synagogue, to the Brotherhood Synagogue in Manhattan and the St. Louis Browns Historical Society.

He also threw a party for George Brett to mark the occasion of his 3,000th major-league hit. Finally, his accountant told him he better put money aside to cover the IRS obligation that was to come later.

All this was made possible as a result of Buckner's World Series error. It was a crying shame for the Red Sox but a momentous event for charitable causes, thanks to the generosity of Richman, who has spent his entire life around baseball, first as a sportswriter with the New York Daily Mirror and then an official of the Mets and Yankees.

The scenario was not without its bizarre moments. Buckner first said the ball was worthless, then that Richman had a phony piece of memorabilia and he had the right one; yet he never produced it. Finally, when a TV reporter approached Buckner, he denied his own identity.

Meanwhile, actor Charles Sheen scored the winning bid, followed by the storm clouds of controversy created by Buckner's doubt that it was the right ball. However, video replays show Buckner leaving the field and not retrieving the ball as it skipped down the right-field foul line, where umpire Ed Montague picked it up. After he got to the dressing room, he marked the ball with a pen.

Richman always made a practice of calling on the umpires to see if they had any special needs. It was then that Montague gave him the ball. Mookie Wilson signed it and Richman took it home, almost oblivious to the piece of history he was holding. Richman, Montague and Wilson later wrote letters documenting the credibility of the ball.

When the Leland's Auction House held up payment of the $85,000, Richman said, "OK, just let me have the ball back. It's not important I sell it. If there are any doubts, I'd feel more comfortable calling off the whole deal."

The next day the check arrived because, by that time, investigators agreed the ball was what it was said to represent. Then Richman went on his personal charity drive, but he doesn't take any bows.


What happened next? "Well," he says, "I told my wife, Martha, I'd do something for her. I took her to dinner at Ponte's, a fine restaurant. I guess that sounds like a husband."

But Arthur Richman, one of life's noble men, has continually befriended baseball players and umpires in ways that could never be fully tabulated. As for himself, he was once in deep water off the Florida coast and kept waving to friends on the beach. They finally realized he might be in distress and went to his assistance.

Why didn't you scream for help? they asked after the rescue. And his answer, fact not fiction, was an unforgettable: "I didn't want to trouble you."

The same man saw to it that only good would come from a mere baseball that played a part in World Series history.