Born in 1931, Zalta lived and breathed Yankees. He knew the names of all the players and their statistics, and went to games whenever he could.
Then, when he was 14 years old, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. - home of the Yankees' spring training camp.
It was like a dream come true, he recalled.
Although baseball stars were big celebrities even in the 1940s, they tended not to be as isolated as they are today. Of course, Zalta might have had a lot less contact with the stars had he approached them before or after a game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but in those relatively more innocent days security was far less strict and he had the opportunity not only to meet many of the ballplayers he so much admired, but to actually play a little sandlot-like ball with them before spring training officially began.
"There were no fences and before the spring training began I would go to the camp and play ball with the guys," he said. "I got to know many of them. I got them to take pictures with me."
Zalta posed with many of the ballplayers that people now consider part of the classic Yankee teams of the 1940s and 1950s, and keeps them in a book that some might consider a treasure.
Some of the names wouldn't be familiar to casual baseball fans, although they are historic icons in Yankee tradition, such as Bob Feller, Bill Johnson and "King Kong" Keller.
"Stan Musial [a St. Louis Cardinal] was a great guy," Zalta recalled. "Bob Feller used to rub my hair."
Being Jewish, Zalta was thrilled when the Detroit Tigers came to play the Yankees at spring training, for this gave him the opportunity to pose with one of the great home run sluggers, Hank Greenberg.
"You can't imagine what a thrill that was for me," he said. "He was Jewish and I was Jewish."
Zalta recalled one story that touched a particular nerve during that time.
"I was working at my father's store in St. Petersburg when in comes a young black fellow," Zalta remembered. "I asked him how he was. He said 'fine.' He told me he played baseball for the Yankees. I asked him why he wasn't at the hotel with the rest of the Yankees. He said they wouldn't let him in and that he was going to stay with some friends until the season started."
That young black ballplayer turned out to be Elston Howard, who played as a Yankee outfielder from 1955 to 1967, and later became one of the New York Yankees' most beloved coaches during the mid-1970s championship years.
Of course, Zalta dreamed of becoming a baseball player, but he was too short to consider making it - though he admired New York Yankees shortstop (and later announcer) Phil Rizzuto, who was also short.
Years later Zalta met Rizzuto in Long Branch where he got his autograph and showed him the book of photos from the 1940s.
Zalta's book of photographs gave him more than a little status when his family visited Brooklyn later. He made a $5 bet with a friend that he had posed for photographs with some of the biggest Yankee stars.
"In New York you couldn't get near them," he said. "I showed him the book. He gave me the $5."
Zalta's family heard many of the stories from those days, small tales about sports giants that have become treasured memories for a man who went on to a successful life in retail.
Zalta opened his store on Broadway in Bayonne in 1968.
But he has remained a true Yankee fan since, and says that of the current lineup, shortstop Derek Jeter most resembles the old-time Yankees.
"You can tell he loves to play the game." Zalta said. "Others are there for the money. But he's there for the game."
One of the stars that Zalta always missed - and one he always wanted to meet - was Mickey Mantle.
This took more than 40 years to accomplish. In February 1990, Zalta went to Mantle's restaurant in New York City and brought his book of memories with him.
"Mickey loved my book of photographs," Zalta recalled. "That was the highlight of my life. There's never been anybody like him."