Thrift Treasures 60: Holy Cow! Harry Caray signed book found … Returned to owner
I found this signed Harry Caray “Holy Cow” book while doing routine checks of Bay Area thrift stores. When I found it, I saw that it was inscribed to someone, but Caray’s handwriting was so bad, I could not really make it out. And honestly, I didn’t care. All I cared was that Caray’s signature was on one of the pages and this was the latest addition to my collection.
Rewind about two weeks before that.
While checking that same thrift store, I located an old Jackie Robinson book, the kind of hardback book that some of you older readers might remember checking out in your elementary school libraries. Inside the front page, there was the checkout card and envelope. I like finding these and looking at the names of the people who had checked out the book. I always imagined I’d one day find one of these school books that had my own name on it. No such luck.
But on the checkout card in this Jackie Robinson book was one name that stood out – Roxy Bernstein.
Now, unless you watch a lot of ESPN or live in the Bay Area and listen to sports talk radio (95.7 The Game), you may not be familiar with the name. Nonetheless, the name is not a typical one and I was only aware of one person who had that name. So I pulled out my phone while I was in the store, did a quick internet search, and sure enough, Mr. Bernstein, grew up in the Bay Area and there was a possibility that the book I was about to purchase was checked out of the school library on Dec. 5, 1984 by the same Roxy Bernstein.
I bought it, thinking that I’d contact Bernstein later and see if he wanted it back. I’m weird like that. Like I said earlier, if someone found a book that had my name on the checkout card I want it back. It’s a conversation starter.
Later that day I sent a public tweet to Bernstein and sure enough he responded and said it was his. At the time, I asked him if he wanted it back but he never responded. No big deal.
Now flash forward to the last week of July 2013.
I’m cleaning up my collectibles and going through some of the neat signed books I’ve found and lo and behold there is Mr. Caray’s smiling face looking at me.
I opened the book and stared at the Caray signature, thinking that it was one of the coolest items I had found recently. Caray is an iconic baseball figure who passed away 15 years before I found this book. His autographs routinely fetch upward of $100, and I managed to acquire one for just a few dollars.
But as I stared at the inked page, I looked at the inscription again … it started “Hi Dear R … O …”
Oh, “Hi Dear ROXY …”
It was clear as day, now. And given that the book was found in the same store where I found the aforementioned Jackie Robinson book, I figured that “Roxy” in Caray’s book was Bernstein.
So I tweeted at Bernstein and he responded … it was his book, but he wanted to know how I got it.
My initial thought was that Bernstein must think I broke into his house or something. So I let him know that I found it at a thrift store. Then he deduced that his parents must have donated some of his items unbeknownst to him.
Essentially, it was every collector’s worst nightmare.
Now, let me set things straight. When I find things at a thrift store and pay money for said items, those items now belong to me. I’m not actively looking to buy things to return to people. But in this case, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Via Twitter, Bernstein advised that he was a big Caray fan and got the signature while covering a Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants game when Bernstein was still in college. I then offered to send him the Caray book, and he thought it was a nice gesture and sent me his address.
So a few days later I packaged the Caray book along with the Jackie Robinson book and sent them his way. They arrived earlier this week to Bernstein’s delight.
When I bought the Caray book, it brought me great joy. I tweeted pictures of it and received a nice response from the collecting community. But for some reason, I never sat down and wrote about it, which is something I typically do with my sports-related thrift store/flea market finds.
Given what’s transpired over the last two weeks, I now know why I never wrote about it. The story wasn’t complete. Now it is.
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