HOLLYWOOD — The two Hollywood detectives couldn't catch the bad guy in a stolen-baseball caper, so they became the good guys and replaced the ball. When they presented it last week to the victim of the theft, she exclaimed, "Hilarious!"
It wasn't just any baseball that was taken from the Hollywood home of Lynn Simross in a burglary in April. It was the game ball from Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax's first major league victory in 1955, and was signed by the great left-hander.
Simross, 55, a retired Times reporter, had bought the ball for $150 at a 1978 auction that raised funds for the legal defense of the late Times reporter Bill Farr, who was jailed for refusing to reveal his sources for stories relating to the Charles Manson murder case.
Six months later, Detectives Chris Casey and Mike Fesperman of the LAPD's Hollywood Division had exhausted every lead. They had called pawnshops and followed up on newspaper ads, but realized the ball was, in Casey's words, "in the wind"--beyond recovery, probably on some memorabilia collector's shelf.
So they wrote a letter to Tommy Hawkins, head of the Dodgers' public relations department, suggesting that he ask the publicity-shy Koufax to sign another ball for Simross.
"We were sitting around the detective table (and I said), 'why don't I just get her a baseball?' Casey recalled. "I felt the lady was really sincere, really nice, and I just felt bad for her."
Koufax agreed, and signed a new ball with "To Lynn--Very Best Wishes, Sandy Koufax." It arrived at Dodger Stadium this week, covered in plastic and secured in a gold base. Fesperman and Casey presented it to Simross on Thursday.
"You really got Sandy Koufax to sign this? You swear?" Simross exclaimed when the detectives gave her the ball, which they had boxed and wrapped.
"This is wonderful! You guys are great. . . . This is really hilarious. Wait till my friends see this!" she said.
Hawkins said he was delighted to help out.
"This is the first time that a police department has called me and asked me to attempt to rectify (a) situation," Hawkins said. "I thought it was an outstanding gesture on the part of the Police Department to try to do this for this lady." He said Koufax was understanding.
Casey was pleased, too. "I tell you honestly, I didn't think it was ever going to come through. It sure enough did." Plenty of cases, he noted, don't come through; only 35% of Hollywood burglaries are ever solved.