"We were amazed. We jumped around, gave each other a few hugs," Chris Amer said. He bought the items at auction last Wednesday at a South Side storage facility. He and a handful of other collectors had only a minute at the locker to glance over the items before bidding.
"Even the auctioneer was like, can you imagine if that was really Stroger's locker? He said, 'Ahh it couldn't be,'" Amer said. Amer, who's from Michigan, had never heard of John Stroger, the former Cook County Board president who died in 2008. But his business partner, Warnell Dickson, knew the name.
"Somebody that didn't know who Stroger was might have bought this and threw it in the garbage can. Because they'd feel like they couldn't do nothing with it," Dickson said.
With a winning bid of $450, Amer and Dickson bought a treasure trove of memorabilia- autographed photos from sports stars, photos of Stroger as a young man in his native Arkansas, souvenirs that may have been gathered overseas, a gavel and other official-looking items, and commemorative fan rings from the Bulls Championships during the 90s. They've now hired a company to authenticate and auction off the items...
"There's a huge variety of inventory that would appeal to all Chicago residents, Chicago historians, sports fanatics," Alex Mazer, The BirdDog Group, said.
Amer and Dickson say for a week they've tried to contact Stroger's son, Todd, who lost his bid for re-election as Cook County Board president in 2010. The storage facility sits across from WVON-Radio, where the younger Stroger used to host a radio show.
"I feel bad because his son should have been able to protect this, you know what I mean. Something your father struggled for, and he was the first to do it. It should have been protected," Dickson said.