Thief Steals $600,000 Worth of Signed Baseballs from Arizona Restaurant

Thirty-four baseballs were stolen from Don & Charlie’s, including balls signed by Willie Mays and Babe Ruth.
Bettina Makalintal
Brooklyn, United States
April 1, 2019, 1:00pm
a baseball signed by Babe Ruth is displayed at auction house Christie's
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In its most recent Instagram post, back in June 2015, the Arizona restaurant Don & Charlie’s shared a picture of owner Don Carson in a dining room completely covered in sports souvenirs: There’s an autographed basketball in a glass case and walls lined with baseball bats, Sports Illustrated covers, and framed jerseys. “We keep telling him there is no more room and he keeps getting more stuff signed!” reads the caption.

Claiming 750 autographed baseballs, the self-described “shrine to sports memorabilia” is beloved in the sports scene. Baseball fans book reservations while in Scottsdale for spring training to eat steak and ribs and check out the collection, while trying to rub elbows with a player or two. As of this week, that ball collection’s a little lighter: up to $600,000 lighter, the Associated Press reported, after a thief stole 34 baseballs on Wednesday.

The thief knew exactly which items to go for: The stolen baseballs were autographed by Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra—plus, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth, as Fox News later reported. The police estimated the worth of the 34 stolen items as between $200,000 and $600,000, but they haven’t identified any suspects. (And if that news didn’t already make sports fans sad, the restaurant is closing in a few weeks to make way for a boutique hotel.)

But as Jeff Thalblum, owner of a sports memorabilia store in Phoenix, told the local Fox station, the thief might also be a sucker. Without the proper certificate and hologram stickers, signed sports memorabilia can’t be proved to be legit. If the thief didn’t take that documentation as well, the balls are less likely to pull in their full worth. “I wouldn’t buy them because they have no authentication,” Thalblum told Fox.

Thalbum also said that if someone comes in with a bunch of signed balls this weekend, he’ll be calling the cops. Trying to pawn off 34 big-ticket baseballs locally—the same week as a high profile theft—would truly take balls.