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Stroger items, including diary, on auction block — but no sale

A journal written by Todd Stroger up for auctiBunte AuctiServices ElgIll. Sunday July 1 2012.

| Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Medi|

A journal written by Todd Stroger up for auction at Bunte Auction Services in Elgin, Ill., on Sunday, July 1, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |

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Updated: August 3, 2012 6:22AM

Political and personal items of the late Cook County Board President John Stroger and his son Todd drew bids of up to $3,750 at an auction Sunday but failed meet the price the owner wanted and so remained unsold.

However, the items, including a signed letter from President Bill Clinton, two Bulls championship replica rings and a diary kept by Todd Stroger, were open to public inspection.

The younger Stroger’s diary — seven pages intermittently filled out from 2005 to 2009 — reveal a man who had trouble stepping out of his father’s shadow and who constantly worried about negative media coverage.

Talking about himself at the time of his father’s stroke, Stroger wrote: “Our story so far has our hero in a bind. How does he not do an Oedipus [referring to a mythological king who killed his father], but still keep himself in a good position to advance. The question is how long can you wait? Dad’s stroke is two months out and the media is howling at the door.”

As he was running against Republican Tony Peraica to replace his father as board president: “The campaign is working on my image. I need to appear tougher. I can understand I’m a quiet person.”

Also among the keepsakes was a handwritten note to John Stroger: “Sorry I called you a scum bag. Maria, Your Treasurer.”

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said the note stemmed from a brief disagreement the two had. Pappas could not remember the details but said that after the apology, Stroger came around to her way of thinking. “We had a special relationship. He was like the godfather of politics to me. He was my champion, he was a great man,” she said.

A few former county employees who showed up but did not bid were drawn to the more ordinary remnants of the Stroger political dynasty — framed photographs, plaques, resolutions, citations, awards, matchbooks and more — that were laid out on four tables in an Elgin auction house Sunday.

“You see this watch?” one of them asked, holding up a golden-cased timepiece with a county seal, “When you got one of these, it was a huge deal. First you got a pin, then you got a watch, but you had to put in your time.”

The auction items came from a South Side storage locker. Its contents were sold to Chicagoan Chris Amer for $450 after storage fees were not paid.

Todd Stroger told the Sun-Times earlier that he attempted to buy some of the items back, but it did not pan out.

“All I can tell you is I tried to contact that young man” who bought the locker. “We were supposed to meet twice, and he never showed up,” said Stroger, who succeeded his father as county board president in 2006.

“People who never called me, called me about that incident. They were like ‘Oh, man, we’ve got to get the stuff back,’” Stroger said, noting that he has had other things on his mind, including his battle to find full-time work since he lost a bid for re-election in 2010. “I’ve got a wife and two kids. They’ve got to eat, go to school and everything else.”

At first, Amer put them up for auction at Bunte Auctions in Elgin, without a reserve or minimum price, but auctioneer Kevin Bunte said Amer imposed an undisclosed reserve price the day before the auction.

The Stroger items drew interest from only two bidders: Chicagoan Bob Remer, who attended in person, and an unknown online bidder. Remer dropped out at $3,500 and the online bidder stopped after bidding $3,750.

Auctioneer Bunte then announced the bid had not met the minimum.

“I hope it goes to a good place,” said Remer, who said he was a Chicago history buff.

Contributing: Andrew Nelles

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