On October 1, 1961 Roger Maris deposited a Tracy Stallard fastball into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium, his record breaking 61st home run of the season. The only 61st home run that truly matters. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa can go screw each other in a steroid induced menage a trois.(Just one man’s opinion.)
19 year old Sal Durante, pictured above, caught the ball. When he tried to give the ball to Maris, he was told by Maris to keep the ball and, “….make yourself some money.”
Durante’s fiancè Rosemarie, bought the tickets to the game. They were married on Oct 29th, 1961 and have recently celebrated their 51st anniversary. A Hall of Fame marriage for sure. Durante sold the ball for $5,000 to Sam Gordon, a restaurant owner in Sacramento, CA.
This is Sam Gordon presenting the ball to Roger Maris at his restaurant, Sam’s Original Ranch Wagon, in November 1961. Maris donated the ball to the Hall of Fame in 1973.
You may notice the initials SD on the ball. Why would Sal Durante’s initials be on this historic ball? It seems that Yankee officials were a little nervous about Sal leaving Yankee Stadium with the ball. They feared that he might get mugged for the ball. So Sal agreed to leave the ball with the Yankees, to be picked up at a later time. Sal wanted to make sure he got the actual home run ball back, so he was allowed to write his initials on the ball, to authenticate it for later.
So Sal Durante has an “autographed” ball prominently displayed at the Hall of Fame. As Mel Allen used to say, “How about that.”