Judge’s 62nd HR and the Auction of the Ball
by Tamar Chalker
December 20, 2022
When Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season in Arlington, Texas, it was without a doubt a truly historic moment - one I would not be surprised to see him repeat or surpass before he hangs up his cleats. Baseball is a sport that has a remarkable tendency for big moments to come at particularly dramatic times and Judge had the opportunity to break Roger Maris’ record against the Red Sox or on the day Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record. Even had he hit it against another AL East foe, such as the Blue Jays, it would have added an extra layer of excitement.
Instead, Judge’s big moment came in Texas - and not even against the Astros, who’ve become more of a rival of late. The historic ball wasn’t caught by a lifelong Yankees fan, a Bleacher Creature, or any number of people who would have given this story an interesting final act. It was caught by Cory Youmans, a Dallas man wearing a Rangers hat and by all accounts, not hurting for money. He is also married to a Sports Illustrated reporter, Bri Amaranthus, which was an interesting, if not compelling fact.
The ball was estimated to fetch about 2 million dollars and Youmans was purportedly offered 3 million dollars by an interested private buyer, which he turned down. Aaron Judge also turned down an early contract offer from the Yankees, but that paid off in spades for the New York slugger. Youmans was not as lucky, as news hit that he auctioned the ball off this past week and received only 1.5 million dollars for it.
While this wasn’t exactly the big pay day people expected, this still makes it the second highest price paid for a ball. The most expensive ball sold was Mark McGwire’s 70th HR of 1998. It was sold for 3 million dollars in 1999 (which is comparable to approximately 5 million dollars in 2022). When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record, the ball eventually sold for just over $750,000, a nice sum for the 21-year-old who caught it and subsequently split the proceeds with the friends who were at the game with him. The person who bought the ball gave it to the Hall of Fame, which is certainly a good spot for a ball shrouded in that much history and controversy.
To Youmans’ credit, he was pretty gracious about the ball going for half of what he had purportedly been offered prior to the auction. The ball went to an anonymous buyer described as a “prominent Midwestern businessman and collector.” Youmans stated, “Joe seems like a great man and the perfect steward for this special piece of MLB history. The ball is in great hands.” Obviously, I don’t know who “Joe” is, but I find it hard to believe he is “the perfect steward” of this historic ball. I’d posit that Aaron Judge and/or the New York Yankees would be the perfect match for such a ball - or at least a Yankees fan.
The auction winner put out his own statement, ““I am very lucky…to become the owner of the world’s most valuable baseball which comes from the most historic franchise in America’s game – the New York Yankees. Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris, and now Aaron Judge. Aaron had arguably the greatest home run season in baseball history and now he will continue his career with the iconic organization. I am lucky, blessed and grateful to own a piece of baseball and American history and hopefully find a path for others to enjoy this history also.”
Maybe I’m too cynical, but this statement doesn’t make me think this is someone who cares so much about the history as he does owning “the world’s most valuable baseball” and while I hope he does do something so that others can appreciate its history, I won’t hold my breath.
Once again, it’s a lackluster end to what was an exciting and historic moment in Yankees baseball. The Bonds and McGwire balls appear tainted from the steroid era and Judge’s record represents a shift away from that. I’ve thought a lot about whether I would keep the ball or sell it if I were the person who had caught it. I think I likely would have bartered it back to the Yankees and/or Judge if I didn’t hold onto it, though it certainly would be tough to turn away 3 million bucks. Then again, even as I get older, the idea of owning such a big part of Yankee history still feels so much bigger than the money.
What would you do? Keep the ball? Sell it? Give it away?