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Catching a record-breaking home run ball can be life changing, as NYC family found out 61 years ago

Son of man who caught Maris' HR ball reflects on life-changing moment
Son of man who caught Maris' HR ball reflects on life-changing moment 02:14

NEW YORK -- Yankees slugger Aaron Judge could make history on Wednesday night.

No. 99 is one home run away from tying the American League record of 61, a mark set by Roger Maris 61 years ago.

As CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported, it's a moment so big, it can change lives.

READ MOREAll eyes on Aaron Judge as he's poised to tie Roger Maris' home run record

As Maris rounded the bases at the old Yankee Stadium, 19-year-old Sal Durante's life was about to change.

"My father jumped on his seat, line drive in his hand, and he wound up falling three and a half rows behind him," son Tom Durante said.

He caught the home run ball that broke Babe Ruth's then-record of 60, a mark some would argue has never truly been broken since.

"Baseball was his love, and if you loved it as much as he did, then you were in," Tom Durante said.

Sal Durante, center, was 19 years old when he caught Roger Maris' record-breaking 61st home run ball in 1961. CBS2

Sal Durante went to that game with his girlfriend, who would later become his wife. They had three kids. Tom Durante said he and his brothers never really knew how big of a moment it was until they got older.

"He never sat down and said, 'This is what I did. Look at me,'" Tom Durante said.

But then he saw the pictures, the articles, and there were even wedding gifts at the house sent to them by Roger Maris. The ball sold for $5,000.

"The only reason he got the money was because Maris told him, 'Hold on to the ball. Somebody is going to offer you some kind of money for that ball,' and that's exactly what happened," Tom Durante said.

There were plenty of interviews and run-ins with celebrities, but the coolest moment for Sal Durante was going back to his home at the time on Coney Island.

"They sent him home in a cab. He got out of the cab, he said there were about 150 to 200 people in front of his house, and the police had to walk him through his door," Tom Durante said.

His father was invited back to Yankee Stadium on a few occasions, including on the 50th anniversary of the home run. He was reunited with that ball, which is now featured at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I hope you grew up a Yankees fan," Rincon said.

"Oh yeah, we had to. We had no shot," Tom Durante said.

As a fan, he understands the moment, and is eager to see Judge not only make history, but potentially change someone else's life.

"To me, I'm kind of hoping Judge does it and gets it done and turns the page, because then it's like a whole new story and a new chapter on what I lived and my brothers lived all our lives," Tom Durante said.

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