The memorabilia was supposed to be part of the 30th annual Roger Maris charity auction. Among the stolen items were 76 autographed baseballs and 20 signed copies of Billy Crystal’s 2001 film “61,” whose main characters are Maris and baseball rival Mickey Mantle. According to the auctioneers, the baseballs alone would have netted about $4,000.
Although auction coordinator Jerry Rostad doesn’t expect to get the stolen memorabilia back, he does hope news outlets will bring attention to the crime so the thieves can’t easily flip the items via eBay, sports memorabilia stores or pawn shops.
Over the past three decades, the Maris auction has raised nearly $1.7 million for the Roger Maris Cancer Center, the Hospice of the Red River Valley and Maris’ alma mater, Shanley High School.
Maris died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1985, a year after starting the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament and auction. Mantle was among those in attendance that year. Incidentally, Mantle also died of Hodgkin’s, as did his father, his grandfather and one of his sons.
Despite the unfortunate burglary, this year’s auction went off as scheduled, and a ton of money was raised. An autographed Mariano Rivera ball went for $375; a “Purple People Eaters” Vikings helmet, signed by Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Carl Eller, sold for $3,000; and a commemorative Henry Firearms “Golden Boy” rifle went for $2,100.
Many auction items are donated by fans. Every year, Maris’ most loyal fan, Andy Strasberg, makes the trek from San Diego to attend the auction. “Fargo was great. It’s hard for me to comprehend that I’m still involved with my childhood hero and his family,” Strasberg said.
Strasberg runs Fantography, a nonprofit social media project dedicated to showcasing the photos and stories of everyday baseball fans. “It all started with a picture of Roger and me taken back in 1966,” Straberg said.
This year, Strasberg donated photos from his personal collection.
Aside from the live auction, there was a silent auction and, of course, the golf tournament. “It’s a great group. And they’re always able to attract celebrities–(Whitey) Ford, Mantle, Ken Sanders, Lou Cordileone, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog,” Strasberg said.
Images courtesy of henryrepeating.com, eBay.com and sabr.org