Homer-Catching Sal Durante Salutes Roger Maris

Durante’s baseball fame continued into 1962.
Check out the Seattle PI website’s great vintage
feature about the movie 61*.  Durante was hired to
catch a baseball off the Space Needle. See how the
stunt ended, and the major leaguer
included in the World’s Fair doings!

Even if you never rooted for the New York Yankees, you’ve got to cheer for Sal Durante.

In the 50th anniversary celebration of the Roger Maris home run in 2011, Durante participated in the team festivities. The man who caught historic homer #61 could be bitter he never had a memorabilia auction house make him rich. Instead, Durante took every opportunity to salute the man he never stopped admiring.

Durante wrote:

“I met Roger three times when he broke Babe Ruth’s record. He told me to keep the ball and make some money.

We met in Sacramento, Calif., in Sam Gordon’s Restaurant. I received $5,000 for the ball. Sam gave the ball to Roger as a gift.

When everything was completed, we were leaving the restaurant. Roger reached down, put his hand to mine. He said, ‘This is for you.’ It was his New York Yankees lighter.

My wife asked the Yankees if it was OK to come to the stadium to take a picture with our 3 yr. old son and my wife. Roger was it would be fine with him. He was a real Gentleman.”

Anyone who saw the HBO movie 61* about the historic season may have wondered what Durante thought of being a real character.

“It was exciting being played in the movie 61*. They did a great job.”

Lastly, how did Durante feel about the other fan’s fame when a certain Yankee captain made more history?

“When Christian Lopez caught Derek Jeter’s H.R. for hit #3,000, he chose to give it to Derek. He felt Derek deserved it.

I believe he made the right choice.

Sal Durante”

Coming Wednesday: My ’10 Most Wanted List,’ Baltimore Orioles edition

Team Organists, Yankees Fans And More: Previewing Tom’s Latest “10 Most Wanted” List

Once, Mark Cresse
made and sold lamps
made out of Dodger
broken bats!

I decided to go off the field in search of 10 more eyewitnesses to baseball history.

Topping the list is Christian Lopez, the fan who caught (and gave back) Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. I’m hoping I’m not too late. I see that Steiner Sports has offered signed LOPEZ baseballs. Does this mean that answering fan mail is taboo?

Two other Yankee-related names intrigue me, retiring trainer Gene Monahan and the first Christian Lopez, best known as Sal Durante. Durante caught the 61st home run ball hit by Roger Maris.

Other non-player notables on my list include:

Lon Simmons, Frick Award-winning announcer
Mark Cresse, long-time Dodgers bullpen coach
Terry “Talkin’ Baseball” Cashman
Oscar Leon, Artist
Lou Cella, Sculptor
(collaborators on Frank Thomas statue — loved their This Week in Baseball appearance!)
Gary Pressey, Cubs organist
Nancy Bea Hefley, Dodgers organist

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, check out this impressive feature about MLB team organists!