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Early Bird Gets . . . : Lotto Number Was Up but Work Called First

November 21, 1987|DIANNE KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

So he forgot. Big deal.

So he could have come into some money, paid off his house, both houses. Who cares?

So he could have spent the rest of his life in luxury, with a fishing rod dangling between his fingers. Maybe a gold fishing rod, maybe from the stern of his yacht.

So what if it was $8 million?

But Jim DeSantis lost. So did the rest of us, but not like Jim DeSantis lost. His numbers, all six of his special one-of-a-kind numbers, came up Wednesday as winners of the $8-million California State Lottery Lotto 6/49 jackpot.

DeSantis, 40, of Huntington Beach, has been playing those same numbers ever since Lotto started. He plays every Wednesday and Saturday. But he missed last Wednesday.

Called to Work Early

A foreman at The Times' Orange County printing plant, DeSantis was called into work early on Wednesday, thrown off schedule. By the time he made it in, he remembered. It was still Wednesday and his numbers--44, 12, 39, 36, 2 and 47--popped into his mind.

"But I've only won $5 in a year, so I just figured I wouldn't play that day," DeSantis recalled Friday. And after all, those numbers had no real significance, like a birthday or a draft card number or some such. They had just seemed lucky when DeSantis first chose them. But, then again, maybe he had been wrong.

So DeSantis stayed on his job Wednesday, where he has worked for almost 19 years. He didn't even give a thought to rushing out, just for a minute, to play his numbers. He did ask a colleague if she was going out to buy a ticket.

Nah, she wasn't. So he wouldn't either. He would live dangerously.

But habit being what it is, DeSantis later called up the winning numbers on a computer terminal at The Times, as he does whenever his 8-year-old son forgets to call him at work with the winning numbers announced on television.

'A Really Strange Look'

"Well, I got a really strange look on my face," DeSantis said of that fateful moment at the computer screen. Those numbers seemed awfully familiar. He went to his desk to check his old Lotto cards, the ones with those same numbers played week after week.

"I was with another guy and he told me how my face just started looking really strange," DeSantis said. "I looked at the card and I couldn't believe it. He looked at the card, and he couldn't believe it either."

DeSantis seems a low-key kind of guy. He says he doesn't remember saying anything at that moment.

Maybe he was stunned. Maybe he was trying to interpret the cosmic meaning of it all, why Nov. 18, 1987, was fated to be the day the big one got away.

"I just sat there, for about an hour and didn't move," DeSantis said.

Later that night, he called from work and told his wife, Beverly.

"I told him I thought that was grounds for divorce," she said Friday, with a laugh. Or sort of a laugh.

'He's Sick About It'

"He's very sick about it," she said. "He didn't do anything yesterday (Thursday). He just sat around. He only had soup before he went into work. He didn't have any breakfast today."

"I ain't felt like doing a hell of a lot," he said.

Oh sure, he will indulge in a bit of "what iffing." What if he had bought that ticket?

"I probably would have quit my job," he mused. "And I would have paid off this place and another place we have at the river (near Bullhead City, Ariz.). And I would have done a lot of fishing. Maybe even bought a boat."

But DeSantis isn't messing around anymore. He will change his numbers and buy a lottery ticket for Saturday's drawing, worth $12 million since nobody drew all six winning numbers Wednesday.

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