Unanswered questions remain in theft of Maris memorabilia from West Acres
FARGO — On Sunday, June 25, at the Delta Hotel by Marriot in Fargo, sports memorabilia will be auctioned off as part of the festivities for the 34th annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament. For two days, there will be golf and an auction to help raise money for Fargo Shanley High School, Hospice of the Red River Valley and the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center.
The tournament has raised over $2 million in its 33-year history, while celebrating the life and career of Roger Maris, who grew up in Fargo and is most famously known for hitting 61 home runs with the New York Yankees in 1961.
But not all sports memorabilia is tucked neatly in a glass case. Like a home run into the crowd, some has seemingly disappeared. The Maris family has a message for whomever is responsible for the theft at the Roger Maris museum in the West Acres shopping in July.
"Bring it back and hopefully it's intact, so we can put it back on display for many more generations to come," Maris' son, Roger Jr., said.
On July 26, a thief dressed in a security guard-like uniform smashed through an exterior mall door, ran to a glass display in the Roger Maris museum, smashed a window of that display and grabbed two items before running out of the mall. A getaway driver is believed to have been involved.
A 1961 S. Rae Hickok Belt that was given to Maris after he broke Babe Ruth's single-season record for homers in 1961 and Maris' 1960 American League Most Valuable Player award were taken. According to court records, the estimated value of the items exceeds $100,000.
"I don't know why someone would want to do that," Roger Jr. said. "We've seen crazy stuff every day on the news, so why people do what they do you can't control. You never want to see anything taken from you, especially in a theft. Life goes on and you just regroup and move forward. Hopefully one day they'll find that stuff and bring it back."
The FBI has taken over the investigation involving the Maris memorabilia theft.
"They feel more likely than not the belt is out of state," Deputy Fargo Police Chief Joe Anderson said. "We don't have the resources to further develop sources."
Court documents indicate FBI and police officials in eastern United States had inklings the Fargo case could have been linked to other memorabilia thefts, including the Hickok Belt given to golf legend Ben Hogan. Hogan's belt, which was made of alligator skin, had a solid gold buckle and a four-carat diamond, was taken from the U.S. Golf Association Museum in Bernards Township, N.J., in early 2012. Around the same time and nearby the U.S. Golf Association, trophies were stolen from the Somerset Hills Country Club and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
"These types of things, when they happen, they're tough to get solved because they don't surface for a long time, if ever," West Acres property manager Chris Heaton said. "You can't really sell it on the web and not get caught. It could take awhile. Clearly, it's a shame."
Heaton said new security measures have been added to the Roger Maris museum, since the theft.
"We looked at how the theft was achieved and have taken some steps to counter that in the future," Heaton said. "It's a terrible thing that happened. I think really that the museum still stands for Roger and what he stood for. It still celebrates his life and his achievements, and not having those two pieces there is not going to detract from what he accomplished and what the museum stands for as a whole."
The accessibility of the museum was the most important thing for Maris. Heaton said that won't change.
"It means a lot because that was dad's whole vision," Maris Jr. said. "He wanted it to be somewhere that was accessible and where people didn't have to pay. He wanted anyone who came to Fargo to be able to go and see it and appreciate it and go through it."
Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament
7:30 a.m.: Golf tournament at Edgewood, Fargo
5 and 7 p.m.: Social and auction at Delta by Marriot Hotel, Fargo
7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.: Golf tournament at Edgewood, Fargo