Before Aaron’s 715th. Long before McGwire and Bonds and Sosa hit milestone blasts–and the baseballs sold for crazy dollars–there was Roger Maris’ 61st. It marked the first time a home run ball became "memorabilia".
His name became synonymous with the event itself.
Just an ordinary 19 year-old New Yorker who caught baseball history.
Nearly 48 years after Roger Maris hit 61 homers in a season and passed Babe Ruth, Durante is remembered as the lucky guy who caught the ball.
Everyone knew who he was in the months after Maris’ blast. He got to meet Maris, who wasn’t thrilled with the attention he got or the anxiety that resulted in his chase of one of baseball’s most sacred records. He had offers for the ball, too, including one from a Sacramento, California restauranteur that was too good to resist.
Durante sold the ball, but still has his memories, photos and a keepsake or two from 1961.
The movie 61*, which drew rave reviews from American audiences when it was released a few years ago, is just now out in Canada and the Hamilton Spectator caught up to get Durante’s thoughts on his place in baseball–and baseball memorabilia–history.