Origins: Not just the fanciful plot of the Nicolas Cage movie It Could Happen To You, this did happen to one lucky Yonkers plate-slinger back in 1984.
Cunningham, a thirty-year police veteran, was a regular diner at Sal's, where he liked to order linguine with clam sauce and maintain a steady flow of banter with Penzo, other employees, and regular customers. True to his lighthearted style, Cunningham was making a sort of joke on Friday evening,
Penzo laughed, then forgot the incident until the next night, when the detective walked into Sal's Pizzeria after work with the winning ticket triumphantly clutched in his hand. It was worth six million dollars: three million for each of them. Cunningham, who ordinarily might have left a couple of dollars on the restaurant table, had no regrets about splitting the prize. After all, he says, Penzo helped pick the winning numbers.
Originally published: 31 December 1998
Last updated: 12 January 2015
Forero, Juan. "A $6M Win and This Cop Went Hollywood." Newsday. 26 October 1994 (p. A3). Grogan, David. "After 24 Years Pushing Pizza, Waitress Gets a Tip to Remember." People. 23 April 1984 (p. 119). Pringle, Gill. "It's a Change to Play a Good Guy." Daily Mirror. 10 November 1994 (p. 3). The New York Times. "$3 Million 'Tip' for Yonkers Waitress." 3 April 1984 (p. B3). A World of Luck. Library of Curious and Unusual Facts. Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8094-7711-4 (p. 51).