Talk about dropping the ball.
New York Yankees star Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season Wednesday night, tying the American League record — but leaving at least one person with good reason to frown, despite having just witnessed baseball history firsthand.
A Toronto Blue Jays fan sitting in the left-field stands at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, where Judge blasted the home run that tied fellow Yankees slugger Roger Maris for the league single-season record, was almost ideally positioned — and even equipped — for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, the ball glanced off his glove and landed in the Blue Jays bullpen below.
And a potentially huge payoff slipped through his fingers.
The fan was later revealed to be a 37-year-old Toronto restaurant owner, who reportedly gave his name as Frankie Lasagna to the Canadian Press. He said normally he “would never ever bring a glove other than this situation,” with his left-field seat a reasonably likely landing spot for a home run by the right-handed-hitting Judge and history on the line.
In video footage, the fan appears visibly upset after missing the ball and his chance to be a bit player in baseball history. “The disbelief comes over you and just the shock and the amazement,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I almost had it.’ “
David Kohler, CEO of California auction house SCP Auctions Inc., estimated the value of a ball hit for Judge’s home 61st home run could be between $200,000 and $250,000. And if this was Judge’s last home-run ball of the season, it could end up being valued at more than $1 million.
“The Yankees are beloved,” Kohler said. “Aaron Judge is beloved. There’s no negativity here like the steroid era in the past.” (The only players to have hit more than 61 home runs in a season have been linked with performance-enhancing drugs and played for National League clubs.)
The moment went viral on Twitter after the game.
The historic ball landed in the Blue Jays bullpen and eventually made its way to Judge. The Yankees star didn’t keep it for long, however, as a video of Judge gifting the ball to his mother was posted on Twitter TWTR, -1.18% after the game.
“It’s a moment that I’ll never forget. I’ll cherish it,” the Yankees right fielder said. “Having my mom here supporting me — she’s been here through it all. That’s for sure. The Little League days. Getting me ready for school. Taking me to my first couple of practices and games. Being there for my first professional game and being there when I debuted and now getting chance to be here. This is something special. We’re not done yet.”
Judge tied the AL record held since 1961 by Maris, who also manned right field in the Bronx. Maris made $32,000 during that 1961 season with the Yankees, which would be worth around 10 times that today, according to Saving.org. Judge is considered undercompensated with his 2022 season salary of $19 million, according to contract data from Spotrac.
What would the Toronto restaurateur have done with the ball? Some fans give record-breaking memorabilia to the athletes accomplishing the noteworthy feats, often in exchange for autographs and future game tickets.
“I would have held on to it for as long as I could [to] negotiate,” the Torontonian said. “Maybe get Judge to try to come to the restaurant.”
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