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Tom Mix, Published June 24 2012

Business owner happy to contribute to Maris auction

FARGO – The friendship started about eight years ago. Anthony Imperato and his son were attending a New York Yankees fundraising event in New York. Also in attendance were members of the Roger Maris family.

The Imperatos and the Maris family hit it off, talking about Roger Maris and his famous 1961 season where the Fargo slugger posted 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s single-season record.

Imperato, 54, is the president and owner of Henry Repeating Arms Company, based in Bayonne, N.J. After his meeting with the Maris family, Imperato learned of the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament and the charity auction event that accompanies the tournament every year.

“They were so nice to my son,” said Imperato who attended Sunday’s auction at the Holiday Inn in Fargo. “They were so kind and I never forgot it. My son fell in love with Roger Maris the man and the ball player from watching ‘61*’ many times over. He wore No. 9 on his little league team.”

Not one for golfing, Imperato began thinking of ways he could contribute to the tournament – which proceeds from go to several charities in the area, including the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

Imperato, a lifelong Yankees fan, decided on donating two custom-made rifles with Roger Maris’ No. 9 etched on the firearm in 2006. The Henry firearms have been a regular at the live auction ever since and are always among the list of items that fetch high-dollar amounts.

Sunday, the two rifles – a Golden Boy .22 and a Big Boy .44 Magnum – fetched a combined price of $2,300.

“I’m lucky that I can mix my business with something that I love … baseball and the Yankees,” Imperato said. “And of course, it’s for a great cause, the Roger Maris Cancer Center.”

Imperato was happy to donate his normal two rifles, but saved something bigger for later. He presented the Maris tournament committee with a check for $61,000 at the annual banquet later in the evening.

Imperato had auctioned off 50 rifles last summer to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Maris’ 1961 season. The online auction raised $43,000 and Imperato added an even $18K to make it a donation fit for Fargo’s home run king.

“I wish it was 10 times that amount, but I can’t complain,” Imperato said. “It did very well.”

Randy Richards, a 58-year-old farmer from Hope, N.D. snagged several items at the auction. He and a group of friends have been participating in the golf tournament and auction since 1999. They won the event in 2006.

“This is our annual outing,” Richards said. “It’s one of those things where we will spend a little more strictly because it’s going for a good cause.”

Chad Vandrovec, 36, of Fargo, has been attending the Maris event since he was in grade school. He attended Roger Maris’ funeral in 1985.

He collects autographed baseballs of members of baseball’s Hall of Fame and added three more to his growing collection on Sunday.

Vandrovec placed the winning bids on baseballs signed by Tommy Lasorda, Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford.

“Every ball I buy is a Hall of Famer,” Vandrovec said. “I was going for a few more baseballs, but the prices were going through the ceiling, but that’s great for the auction.”

Auction highlights

Below is list of several items that highlighted the live auction:

Henry Big Boy .44 Magnum firearm – $1,300.

Jared Allen full sized autographed Minnesota Vikings helmet – $1,150.

Henry Golden Boy .22 firearm – $1,000.

Derek Jeter autographed baseball $475.

14K gold baseball bat pendant – $450.

Joe Mauer autographed baseball – $275.

Alex Rodriguez autographed baseball – $225.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562