76ers fan to give memorabilia back to Johnny Bench

File-This March 28, 2019, file photo shows Cincinnati Reds hall of fame catcher Johnny Bench walking up to the field before an opening day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Cincinnati. The winning bidder on over $1 million worth of memorabilia from a recent auction of Johnny Bench’s personal collection is returning the items to the Hall of Fame catcher, with whom he’s been friends since 1967. Businessman Alan Horwitz, a super fan of the Philadelphia 76ers who sits courtside at home games wearing his Sixth Man jersey, successfully bid for Bench’s 1975 and ‘76 World Series rings last month. He also bought the catcher’s 1970 and ’72 NL MVP awards, 1968 NL rookie of the year award, 1969 All-Star Game bat, and several of Bench’s 10 Gold Glove awards. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

ASSOCIATED PRESS – The winning bidder on over $1 million worth of memorabilia from a recent auction of Johnny Bench’s personal collection is returning the items to the Hall of Fame catcher, with whom he’s been friends since 1967.

Businessman Alan Horwitz, a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers who sits courtside at home games wearing his Sixth Man jersey, successfully bid for Bench’s 1975 and ’76 World Series rings last month. He also bought the catcher’s 1970 and ’72 NL MVP awards, 1968 NL rookie of the year award, 1969 All-Star Game bat and several of Bench’s 10 Gold Glove awards.

Horwitz said he and Bench first met during Christmas vacation before Bench took over catching duties for the Cincinnati Reds beginning with the 1967 season.

“After that, for the next 16 seasons, I met Johnny at every spring training in Tampa, and along with his fans, watched him play at All-Star Games, World Series games, and of course witnessed his Hall of Fame Induction,” Horwitz said in a statement. “When I learned of the auction of Johnny’s memorabilia I felt compelled to participate, with the goal to return some of the items to the Bench family and Johnny’s fans.”

Bench and his family have offered the items Horwitz bought for display to several locations, including the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the Reds Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Bench’s museum in his hometown of Binger, Oklahoma.

“I am truly stunned by Alan’s generous gesture and am grateful and proud that these trophies and memorabilia pieces will be on display for millions of fans to experience,” Bench said. “Alan’s only request was to meet my boys, which will happen as soon as we can resume safe travel.”

Bench, who turned 73 this week, told The Associated Press in October that he planned to use the auction proceeds to fund his youngest sons’ college educations.

The auction was held in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 14. Sales totaled just under $2 million, according to Hunt Auctions, which ran the sale.

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