A burglar broke into the Roger Maris Museum in a Fargo, N.D., mall early Tuesday morning and made off with several pieces of memorabilia awarded to the baseball legend and Fargo favorite son.
The thief broke a window and took a 1960 AL MVP plaque and the S. Rae Hickok belt valued at thousands of dollars given to Maris in 1961, the year he broke the single-season home run record. The burglar fled in a waiting vehicle, officials of the West Acres Mall said. The incident occurred within a matter of minutes and it’s not clear whether the thief targeted the belt and the plaque, said mall property manager Chris Heaton.
The break-in triggered an alarm but the thief had fled by the time security arrived, Heaton said.
According to the mall, at 2:17 a.m., a vehicle pulled up outside the Roger Maris entrance and an individual ran up to the door and shattered it. The person then ran to the display case and broke it, then grabbed the belt and plaque and exited through the same door. In total, the time from entrance to exit was about one minute.
The museum, a popular attraction for the mall, includes items from the baseball great’s years growing up in Fargo (Maris was born in Hibbing, Minn.) and from his career in the major leagues, including his two MVP awards, a Gold Glove and his Sultan of Swat crown. Many of the items are on loan from the Maris family.
The museum is free and accessible along one of the mall’s main hallways. Heaton said it is impossible to estimate how many people visit the museum every year, but Maris, who died of cancer in 1985 at 51 and who is buried in Fargo, remains a popular figure.
“Roger Maris is a Fargo hero, so for someone to do this defies belief,” said Heaton, who said it was the first incident involving a theft at the museum in its 32 years.
Police and mall officials are reviewing a surveillance tape that captured the theft.
The S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year award, known as the Hickok Belt, was a trophy awarded for 27 years to the top professional athlete of the year in the United States. It was an alligator-skin belt with a solid gold buckle, an encrusted 4-carat diamond, and 26 gem chips.
A website on the belt estimates it is worth between $90,000 to $140,000 in today’s dollars, but it is unclear if the jewels remained on the belt while it was displayed at the museum.
The mall said it considers both stolen items priceless.