SACRAMENTO — Stephen J. Conway's boyhood sports heroes grew even bigger in his eyes Monday when a lucky combination of their jersey numbers was confirmed as the six winning numbers in the California Lottery's $10.87-million lotto contest.
Conway, a 30-year-old electronics worker from Rohnert Park, is the first person to pick all six numbers in the state lottery's new computerized 6/49 Lotto game, winning equal installments of $543,700 a year--minus federal income tax--for the next 20 years.
His first check, after taxes, will be for $434,960.
At a brief meeting with reporters at the lottery headquarters building, Conway said he picked the six lucky numbers--5, 7, 12, 21, 32, 45--off the backs of, respectively, basketball guard Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics, slugger Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, quarterback Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, outfielder Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, former UCLA center Bill Walton (now of the Boston Celtics) and running back Archie Griffin of Ohio State.
(Cousy wore No. 14, but Conway apparently added the digits to arrive at the total of 5. Walton wore number 32 while at UCLA, but wears No. 5 with the Celtics.)
Conway beat odds of 13.9 million to 1 in picking the six numbers.
Bonus for a Fan
A native of Ohio who moved to California five years ago, the big winner was described by lottery officials as "a real sports fan." Lottery officials said he is from Martins Ferry, Ohio, and attended Ohio University before coming to California.
The winner himself was considerably less forthcoming about himself. Wearing a bright red Hawaiian-print shirt, black pants and white high-top sneakers, Conway arrived at a press conference with his fiancee, whom he declined to identify, and refused to answer most questions.
He said he was "happy" and felt "pretty good" about his windfall, but was undecided about whether he would keep his job testing the flatness of computer discs. "I don't know yet (whether to keep the job)," he said. "I'm thinking about it."
Conway was much less reserved when he bounded into the lottery's San Francisco claim center shortly before 11 a.m. Monday with the winning ticket.
"He was very excited and trying very hard to contain himself," said Mary Anne Boese, the office's supervising agent. "He was jumping around. He was hopping happy."
Lottery security agents whisked him off to Sacramento, where the lottery's main computer confirmed the authenticity of the ticket.
Conway said he did not regularly play the lottery until the new computerized game started last month. Since then, he told lottery officials in San Francisco, he had been playing five boards at a time. (A player may play up to five boards on each ticket.)
He bought the winning ticket Wednesday at the Roger Wilco Market in Rohnert Park, a small town about 45 miles north of San Francisco. He said he used family birth dates to choose the numbers on two boards and the jersey numbers of athletes for two others. "On (the last) one of them, I guess I just closed my eyes and picked," he said.
Conway's appearance in San Francisco ended a 24-hour wait for lottery officials and players, who were told by the lottery's main computer Sunday that someone--unknown but probably in Northern California--had finally chosen all six of the randomly selected winning numbers, four weeks into the game.
Data in Computer
The computer can tell lottery officials whether a ticket with the winning number has been sold, but it does not record the name of the purchaser.
A total of 255 other players picked five of the six numbers, and they will win $1,738 each, said Robert Taylor, communications manager for the lottery. Another 10,090 people hit four numbers, winning $39 apiece. Just over 181,000 bettors picked three of the winning six, for $5 each.
Bettors put up $8.1 million on lotto tickets last week, Taylor said, including $3.6 million last Saturday alone. That is the single-day record for the month-old game, he said.
The last-minute buying rush pushed the grand prize total to $10.87 million, which was $165,000 more than lottery officials estimated at the time of the drawing Saturday night. The size of the grand prize depends on the number of tickets sold.
Spirits were high at the neighborhood grocery store where Conway bought his winning ticket. "Everybody's so excited and real happy for him," said night supervisor Art Justiniano.
Soon after word arrived of Conway's good fortune, Justiniano said a large banner was drawn up proclaiming: "We Sold the First Winning 6/49 Lottery Ticket Worth $10,705,203." And even without the extra $165,000 in winnings added at the last minute, he said business was booming.
"We're a lot busier today," Justiniano said in a telephone interview. "It (the number of tickets sold) has gone up about 25% just today."