The Scottsdale Police Department and Silent Witness are offering up to $11,000 in reward money for information leading to arrests in the burglary at Don & Charlie’s that resulted in the loss of 33 of the restaurant’s prized, autographed baseballs.
In the early morning on March 27, burglars smashed in the front glass door of the restaurant and stole the balls, valued at between $200,000 and $600,000, from a glass case marked “Hall of Fame.”
The targeted nature of the burglary – the perpetrators left the rest of the restaurant’s sizable memorabilia collection untouched – led police to believe it was a targeted theft focusing on the high-value baseballs signed by hall of fame players, Scottsdale Police spokesman Sgt. Ben Hoster said.
For owner Don Carson, who amassed the collection over the restaurant’s 38-year run, the loss was personal. He said in nearly four decades, the restaurant has never had a memorabilia theft.
He said the restaurant did not have security cameras but did have motion sensors and alarms.
Carson hinted that the restaurant will have extra security measures in place until its scheduled closing on April 10.
“I don’t know if I’m supposed to say whether there is security here or not, but I’m going to tell you that we’re prepared,” he said.
Carson, who put up $10,000 towards the reward, said that, to him, it is not about the stolen goods’ monetary value.
“Every item in this restaurant, with the exception of the Babe Ruth ball, was given to me personally,” Carson said, noting that he’s gotten to know many players personally throughout his life.
“I used to go see Ernie Banks at Wrigley Field when I was 10 and through the years I got to know Ernie and he signed the ball for me,” Carson said.
Though the stolen balls were insured, Carson said he is not interested in purchasing new memorabilia.
“I’m talking about it because it’s personal,” Carson said. “The difference is I have no interest in going out and buying another Babe Ruth ball or Enos Slaughter or Ernie Banks. What I had was mine; I saw it signed and insurance doesn’t really have a lot to do with it.”
Carson also said he was sad for baseball fans, saying the hall of fame balls were some of the most photographed items in the restaurant and not everyone gets to “see a Babe Ruth ball from one foot away.”
“Unless you go to (Baseball Hall of Fame in) Cooperstown, you’re not going to see that many hall of famers in any sports bar you go to,” Carson said.
Carson said he hoped the reward money would prompt a break in the case and bring the balls home.
“I don’t feel like venting about the unfairness of life,” Carson said. “Life is unfair and there’s a lot of things that get thrown at you … What I really want is for this sizable reward to help maybe spur somebody to fall from the tree and make it possible for us to not only arrest them but convict them.”
Carson commended the Scottsdale Police for its response to the burglarly and said he thinks the perpetrators “are going to slip up somewhere.”
“They’re just people that are misguided, and I think that it wasn’t brought up in terms of what do you do when you get it?” Carson said.
He said that reputable dealers will have information about the stolen goods and call the police if they come across a flagged item.
Following the burglary, former FBI special agent Kevin Barrows said it was unlikely the balls were stolen for resale on the open market because of the notoriety of the crime.
Barrows said it is more likely the balls will end up in the private collection of the burglars themselves or the private collection of an individual who paid them to steal the balls.
Tips have to come in through Silent Witness in order to be eligible for the reward, Hoster said.
Anonymous tips can be made through Silent Witness at 480-948-6377 or by visiting silentwitness.org.