Johnny Bench's lifelong friend stepped up to the plate to save All-Star catcher's memorabilia

Posted at 9:24 PM, Apr 01, 2021

CINCINNATI — Fifty-four years ago, in Puerto Rico, a young real-estate entrepreneur from Philly met a baseball player hoping to make the big leagues.

Johnny Bench would go on to be one of the greatest of all time. Meanwhile, Alan Horwitz turned out to be one of the most successful businessmen in Philadelphia history, though he's better known as a "super fan" of the 76ers.

But there's another team he loved just as much -- the Big Red Machine.

"Almost the whole team was Hall of Famers. Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose. Well, Pete Rose, no. But he should be," said Horwitz.

Two World Series titles and a Hall of Fame career, for that guy he met in Puerto Rico.

"Every time I was in Philadelphia, we'd have lunch. We'd share time together. He would come to spring training throughout the years," Bench said.

But last year, Johnny Bench decided to sell most of his awards, rings and memorabilia in an auction. The money would go toward putting his sons through college.

"I saw, he worked so hard for these things. What the hell is it going to a collector for? No way!" Horwitz said.

"He texted me before the auction and said, ‘Is this something you really want to do?’” Bench said. “I said that I wanted to set up my kids' education and their future."

So Bench sat and watched as his items got sold in the auction. Both World Series rings, gold gloves, MVP awards and more. All of it going to the highest bidder.

Some of his items were going for significantly more than he expected.

"And here's the minimum. Here's what we think it'll be going. It was amazing what was going on,” Bench said.

What he didn't know was the highest bidder was Alan Horwitz.

"I said I want the highest bid. I spent over a million. I would've spent over $2 million if that's what those items would've cost,” Horwitz said. "It wasn't a question of money. For those items, it was whatever they cost."

And he gave every bit of it back to Bench.

"I've wiped away a million tears thinking how great and unbelievable this is,” Bench said. “He said, 'You deserve it and I can afford it.’”

To Horwitz, it’s not about the money.

“I just did what I think anyone would do (for) anyone they care about and love,” Horwitz said. “Wouldn't you?"

This article was written by Caleb Noe for WCPO.