Sal Durante is a famous footnote in baseball history.
He was the 19-year-old New York Yankees fan who stuck his right hand up and caught Roger Maris’ 61st home run on Oct. 1, 1961. Durante and his fiancée, Rosemarie, were sitting in the right-field stands along with his cousin John and his girlfriend when Maris cracked a 2-0 pitch from Tracy Stallard into Section 33 of Yankee Stadium to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a newly uncovered image that captures the moment when Durante met with Maris after the game. While the meeting was heavily photographed, this particular image has never been offered before. It includes the original dated caption on the back.
Durante had offered to give the ball to Maris, who told him to keep it and “make some money.” There was a $5,000 offer for the ball from Sam Gordon, a restaurant owner in Sacramento, California. Durante took Maris’ advice, flying to Sacramento to trade the ball for the cash. It proved to be enough to finance his wedding to Rosemarie a few weeks later, and also to set up their home in Brooklyn. Durante gave half of the money to his parents, who were in debt.
Gordon, meanwhile, returned the ball to Maris.
To catch the ball Maris hit in the fourth inning for the record-breaking home run, Durante stood on his seat. The ball smacked into his palm, he said. After wrestling with several fans, Durante maintained control of the ball and was led to the Yankees clubhouse by Stadium police.
The photo offered by RMY Auctions is a rare oversized 11-inch-by-14-inch black-and-white shot taken by Seymour Wally of the New York Daily News. Durante is wearing a black jacket and T-shirt, with his hair swept in a pompadour. Maris, looking relieved for perhaps the first time in months, is smiling as he holds the record-breaking baseball.
The auction, which includes more than 1,000 photos, ends Nov. 10.