Jackie Shaw’s usual method of securing items for the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament auction is a four-letter word: beg.
“I’m the one writing letters to Justin Timberlake asking for something with his autograph on it,” says Shaw, chairperson of the charity tournament.
Imagine her surprise, then, when back in November she received an e-mail from a gentleman named Anthony Imperato, who is president of Henry Repeating Arms of Brooklyn, N.Y. Imperato wrote that he wanted to donate two custom-engraved rifles for the auction.
“Completely out of the blue,” Shaw says. “I had never heard of this company before, never heard from this man before. But I loved it. I was so shocked somebody so far out of this area would know about this event and want to do something to help.”
After months of exchanging e-mails to complete the project, the result is this: When the auction is held June 26, two of the items up for bid will be a pair of special edition Henry rifles with detailed Maris engravings on the stocks and receivers.
Suggested retail values are $500 for the .22-caliber “Golden Boy” and $1,000 for the .44 magnum “Big Boy.” And the possible value at auction?
“We do special editions for organizations like Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and our rifles always perform very well at fundraisers,” Imperato says. “These are one of kind rifles. We won’t make them again. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Big Boy gets $3,000 or $4,000.”
In New York, maybe. But this is Fargo, and Fargo being Fargo there’s the chance the guns might fetch significantly less.
No matter, they will be among the big-ticket items at the auction, which last year raised a record $43,485.
There are questions that begged to be asked about this act of generosity. Like, how did a Brooklyn businessman learn about a charity golf tournament in North Dakota? And, what possessed him to donate such valuable items?
The answer to the first question is brief.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t recall,” Imperato says.
The second answer is more interesting.
The 47-year-old Imperato is a self-described lifelong, diehard Yankees fan dating to his youth in the early 1960s. His 14-year-old son, also named Anthony, was born with the same gene – with a kicker. “He’s seen the move ’61*’ about 400 times and has fallen in love with Roger Maris,” Imperato says. “Anthony loves baseball, but really admires Roger Maris – his character and they way he conducted himself. Roger was a quiet, humble player. He just really took a liking to him.”
So, whenever and however Imperato learned of the Maris tournament – which raises money for Shanley High School, the Red River Valley Hospice and Meritcare’s Roger Maris Cancer Center – he decided he wanted to do something to help.
The rifles, which will soon be displayed at the 13th Ave. S. Scheels store, are remarkably embellished with images of Maris’ face, the slugger swinging a bat and even the famed Yankee Stadium facade.
And this year is just the start. Imperato says his company will donate two rifles each year, always with different engravings, to establish a Roger Maris special edition collector’s series.
Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or [email protected]