Man Who Caught No. 61: Roger Maris Told Me To Keep Ball, Make Some Money

NEW YORK (WFAN) — The parallels are uncanny between Christian Lopez, the 23-year-old who returned Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit ball, and Sal Durante, the lucky fan who came away with Roger Maris’ record 61st home run ball in 1961.

Lopez, mired in student loan debt totaling over $100,000, received his tickets to Saturday’s game as a birthday present from his girlfriend, Tara Johnson.

Durante told WFAN’s Steve Somers on Monday that he also “had no money,” so his girlfriend, Rosemarie, bought the tickets.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“It just hit the palm of my hand and it knocked me over into the row behind me. It didn’t hurt, it was fantastic,” Durante said. “I still can’t believe it.”

But that’s where the comparisons between Lopez and Durante end.

Lopez gave the ball to Jeter in exchange for some tickets and memorabilia — a swap that could cost the fan thousands in taxes. Durante said his first instinct was to give Maris the ball, but the slugger wanted no part of it.

“He says ‘No … you keep the baseball, make yourself some money,'” Durante recalled. “I was kind of taken aback, I mean, that was really, really thoughtful of him.”

Listen: Sal Durante talks Maris ball with Steve Somers

As for how his initials wound up on the Maris ball?

“Well, the Yankees felt that there might be a problem if I left the stadium with the baseball, figuring maybe I would get mugged,” explained Durante. “So I said, ‘You know what, how am I gonna know if it’s the same baseball when I pick it up? … How about if I put my initials on it?’ They agreed, and I left it there until we went to Sacramento, which was about three weeks or so (later).”

Durante told Somers there was absolutely no pressure from the team to give up the milestone memento.

“There was nothing said at all about them keeping the baseball,” said Durante. “They agreed that I could pick it up when I was ready.”

Durante isn’t sure that things would have turned out differently if he caught the ball in today’s era.

“Ah, that’s a very, very good question,” he said. “I wish I had an answer for that, I don’t know.”

As for the girlfriend who bought Durante’s tickets? This year, Rosemarie and Sal will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Should Jeter have made a similar offer to Lopez? Sound off in the comments below…

  • chris

    These Jeter fans will say anything to stick up for him weather he’s right or wrong they dont care cuz they actually worship him. They are sick! I think it’s pretty obvious to logical people that Mr. Jeter is a very selfish individual and a big time prima donna! I mean he takes the all-star game off so he could sign jersey’s and baseballs so they could be sold for 15k each! What a great guy!

  • Ellen

    Different time and age. In the old days athletes were more like the average Joe, not prima donnas walking around with Hollywood stares are high fashion models hanging on to their arms.

  • Telling It LIke It Is

    Jeter didn’t give anything to Lopez. All these things were given to him by the Yankees. Now if Jeter has any class, and contrary to what all the Jeter and Yankee apologists claim, I think he is a selfish prima donna, he will at least write a check to Mr. Lopez to cover the taxes that will be imposed. That is the least he can do. It is Lopez, not Jeter, who is the classy person here.

  • Bobbyshades


  • Marc Weiss

    Maris was so sick of the whole chase where even his own team was against him. I’m not shocked that he didn’t want the least to do with the ball since he was just glad it was over and he didn’t have one bit of sentimentality attached to it.

  • MJ

    It looks like Maris was the real class of the Yankees. Considering how little support Maris received compared to Jeter in their quests, it was really a classy move by Maris.

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