What began as a weekend celebration ended on a dismaying note for longtime California dealer/collector Don Del Mazzio.
The last of his seven children was getting married in Las Vegas last weekend. But when Del Mazzio and his wife returned to their Anaheim Hills residence on Monday night, a terrible surprise awaited. Thieves had broken into their 10-room house and looted it, taking cash, credit cards, jewelry, a heavy safe, and a significant amount of graded sports cards and collectibles.
Del Mazzio estimated that 3,000 graded cards, a box of signed baseballs and an attaché case full of signed, certified lithographs had been stolen. In one room, a pillowcase full of “2,000 to 3,000” cards had been left behind by the thieves.
It was more than just sports.
A 40-inch by 50-inch Thomas Kinkade lithograph “Pools of Serenity” had even been taken off the wall during a ransacking that likely went on for awhile.
“The place was turned upside down,” said Del Mazzio, 70, who has been in the collectibles business for more than 30 years, and whose company — DDM Sports Investments — has been a California-based business since 1989. “It was frightening.”
Police were called and did a room by room search. When they emerged, one officer told Del Mazzio “you’re not gonna like what you see.”
“They had taken the garage door apart and shattered the front door,” Del Mazzio said. “I took two steps into the family room and saw a painting off the wall and on the floor. The glass in the frame was shattered.”
The attaché case contained 30 to 40 lithographs, with certified autographs of Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Joe DiMaggio, Carl Yastrzemski, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana and others. Eighty boxes of graded cards — there were 65 cards to a box —were missing, as were boxes of signed baseballs. All were certified, which could go a long way toward nabbing the thieves. Joe Orlando, president of PSA, said his grading and authentication company would use Del Mazzio’s comprehensive list (complete with serial numbers) to flag items as stolen in the firm’s database.
“It breaks your heart when something like this happens to anyone, but it really hits home when you know the victim well,” Orlando said. “Don has been in the hobby for a very long time and his reputation speaks for itself. He is simply one of the nicest people you will ever meet.”
Del Mazzio is still trying to account for what was taken, but his early estimate is that “several hundred thousand dollars” of collectibles were stolen. He believes the heist was “a local job.” After his son’s rehearsal dinner Saturday in Las Vegas, Del Mazzio got a telephone call from a man who identified himself as “Mike Napoli,” and wanted to know about grading cards. As Del Mazzio doesn’t grade cards — he collects them, does appraisals, buys and liquidates estates and authenticates collectibles — he suggested that “Napoli” set up an appointment to review his collection. Del Mazzio works from home and wondered how this collector found him. The man answered that he saw Del Mazzio’s name on a website.
Something didn’t sound right considering there’s a ballplayer by that name, but Del Mazzio didn’t put much stock into it. “He kind of smirked when I asked his name and I thought, “He had to have pulled that name out of his hat,” Del Mazzio said.
After returning to his burglarized home, Del Mazzio called the man to go forward with the appointment, but the would-be collector’s phone number “was dead.” He tried several times and got no response, then finally got a recorded message.
Del Mazzio hopes the police will be able to contact the man who called him, just in case there’s a connection to the theft.
Del Mazzio had no surveillance cameras and only a homeowner’s insurance policy. What surprised him was how the bulky safe was moved out of his house.
“It took four of us to get it into the house,” Del Mazzio said. “There must have been some big guys — there weren’t even any scratches on the walls.”
Del Mazzio hails from Stamford, Connecticut, where his athletic career earned him a place on the Stamford Old Timers Honor Roll (he was inducted in the 2008 class that included Yankees closer Mariano Rivera). He played football and baseball at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He was a 29th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in the June 1966 amateur draft and spent the 1967 season playing 82 games in the outfield for the Rock Hill (S.C.) Indians of the Class A Western Carolinas League.
Leaving pro ball, he earned his bachelor’s degree in leisure education and recreation in December 1975 from Southern Connecticut State College. He would earn a master’s degree in urban parks and recreation administration. In 1979, he was named baseball coach at his junior college alma mater, Norwalk (Conn.) Community College, and also coached football there for three seasons. Del Mazzio then went back to school and earned another master’s, this time in human resources management with a concentration in consulting and organization development.
He later spent 25 years working for Toyota before going full time in the collectibles business. He and his wife Colleen have raised seven children and now have 12 grandchildren.
A longtime fan of the New York Yankees (“I was born in Yankee stripes”), Del Mazzio shares the same birthday (May 16) as former New York player and manager, Billy Martin. He’s just as pugnacious, too. While it was unnerving, he’s determined not to let the robbery affect how he operates.
“We were violated. Not only physically,” he said. “It affects your psyche, but we’re not built that way.
“I do have fire in my blood.”
Del Mazzio said that anyone who has any information about the crime or finds any stolen items should contact Detective J.C. Rodriguez of the Anaheim Police Department at (714) 765-1940 or via email at [email protected].