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Milestone balloons give fans the choice: give it back or sell it?

By NOAH TRISTER

If Aaron Judge overtakes Roger Maris, one lucky fan could become the Sal Durante of this generation.

At the age of 19 in 1961, Durante grabbed the record 61st home run from Maris. The story of what followed – Durante sold the ball for $5,000, and it was returned to Maris as part of the deal – seems downright picturesque by today’s standards. But it reminds us that even six decades ago, fans grabbing famous memorabilia faced a tough choice: keep the ball, sell it, or return it to the player who kicked it?

Now that Judge is close to tying Maris’ American League record, anyone who finds one of his home runs could find themselves with a similar decision to make.

“I would return it. Not even a second guess,” said Kevin Heathwood, a 35-year-old teacher from Harlem who was at the Sept. 21 Yankees-Pirates game in New York. “It belongs to Judge and he earned everything he got. Just being part of it is enough for me.

Many fans share Heathwood’s view, believing that if the judge wants the ball back, it wouldn’t be fair for the fan to keep it. After all, it’s the judge’s moment. Fans are there to appreciate it and share it – but why should a viewer insist on making a huge profit on a souvenir they received simply for being in the right place at the right time?

On the other hand, keeping a record ball and selling it could bring in a life-changing sum of money, which could mean a lot more to the fan than the ball does to the player. And besides, if the judge – or any other famous hitter – really wants the ball that badly, he can probably afford to pay just about any asking price.

“I’m a big Yankees fan, a big Judges fan and I would definitely work with them, but I wouldn’t just give the ball away,” said Danny McDonough, a 32-year-old from Levittown, New York, who attends School by right of Seton Hall. “You hold a very valuable property and I think you are foolish if you give it up with nothing of substance for yourself. Not that I wouldn’t want to do this for Judge and the organization. This is too big an opportunity to pass up.

Watertown’s Bob Fay is a 63-year-old memorabilia collector who was also at the game. Unsurprisingly, his opinion is similar to McDonough’s.

“I’m going to take it home and I’m going to make a million dollars out of it,” he said. “If I give it to someone, I’ll give it to the Hall of Fame.”

In 1998 – when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the ones chasing Maris – Durante said he actually thought about returning the ball from the 61st home run to Maris. But the slugger told him to keep it and do what he could with it. He eventually sold it to a restaurant owner named Sam Gordon, who then gave it to Maris during a photo shoot with him and Durante.

Maris gave the ball to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

It’s not always clear who even has the right to the ball. When Barry Bonds hit his 73rd home run in 2001, a man caught him, but he got loose and another man picked him up. They ended up in court and a judge ruled they should sell the ball and split the proceeds.

There is less controversy when a famous home run is hit in an area inaccessible to fans. When Hank Aaron hit his 715th homer to pass Babe Ruth, Braves pitcher Tom House grabbed the ball from the bullpen and immediately went to give it to the Atlanta slugger.

When Mark McGwire passed Maris with his 62nd homer in 1998, St. Louis Cardinals field crew member Tim Forneris picked up the ball and returned it. He got quite a bit of good publicity for the move – plus a minivan from Chrysler.

For some fans, there is a middle ground between selling the ball for as much as possible or giving it back to the player for nothing. At the very least, they’d like the chance to meet him – and maybe get a few other items of great sentimental value.

“If I got the ball, honestly, I would really like to meet Judge, give him the ball myself. Maybe get a signed ball, a signed bat, a signed shirt, talk to him a bit,” Rob said. Casales, a 25-year-old financial analyst from Jersey City, New Jersey, who bought tickets for Sept. 21-24 after Judge hit his 60th homer on Sept. 20.

“If I’m feeling a little frisky, maybe ask for playoff tickets, but I wouldn’t try to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Yankees, although I know a lot of people will try to do that. do,” he added. . “It’s not really my decision. I love the Yankees too much. I love Aaron Judge too much.

Rob Siwiec, a 26-year-old man from Bayonne, New Jersey, who works at a law firm, said he would like a photo with the judge, an autograph, merchandise – and maybe playoff tickets playoffs.

And he also had another idea – one that Durante and Maris never had to consider.

“I would ask him to follow me on Twitter or Instagram,” Siwiec said, “and yell at me.”

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