Hawking Autographs Hurts Baseball’s Integrity

I’m a member of a Facebook group called Autographs 101. Members give advice and judge the authenticity of signatures. One of the things I love about the group is that its members truly love the game of baseball. Seeing someone proudly display pictures of hawking autographstheir grandfather’s Ted Williams autograph is exciting. One of things that really bothers me though is when someone shows of an autograph they got for free at a game and wants to sell it. Someone gets a baseball signed by Kris Bryant or David Ortiz, then posts a picture of it asking for an obscene amount. Hawking autographs for personal profit not only hurts the game’s integrity, but it’s a selfish thing to do.

I’d go to ballgames as a kid hoping I’d get a few autographs. Other teens and I would stand behind each other patiently waiting for the signatures of Brett Butler, Moises Alou, Pat Hentgen, and Andy Petite, who all signed for me. Nowadays though I see full grown men shoving kids away to get an autograph. Some ballparks now have a Kids Only section where they can get autographs.

These hawkers get hundreds for Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and David Ortiz. Knowing that fans are profiting off of them, some ballplayers now refuse to sign for adults. Others will sign a ball but won’t do it on the sweet spot because they know a fan won’t be able to get as much for it. Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer is going an extra step to ensure fans aren’t hawking autographs. Scherzer set up a website where fans can buy his autograph with all the profits going directly to charity. This angers some fans who won’t be able to make a 100% anymore. They brought it on themselves though.

Hawking Autographs Ruins It For Other Fans

I attended the Hall of Fame Classic game last weekend in Cooperstown. Hundreds of fans stood behind a fence on the first base line waiting for Hall of Famers to come and sign. Most were little kids. But I saw many adults with 2×3 foot posters hoping that someone like Wade Boggs would sign it. How obnoxious do you have to be to not only take a kid’s place, but lug around something that large?

I attended the game with my buddy Angelo who told me a story about Alex Rodriguez. A few years ago, his brother stood outside the ballpark for A-Rod. Most of those who were waiting were little kids who A-Rod is apparently more than happy to sign for. But an overzealous fan almost ruined it for everyone when he handed a box of a dozen baseballs to A-Rod asking him to sign each one. “C’mon man, really?” A-Rod said to the guy. “I know what you’re going to do with those.” A-Rod ignored the guy and continued signing for the kids. The guy got nothing, and deservedly so.

I collect autographs myself. I mail baseball cards to former players, and pay a fee to meet them in Cooperstown. One thing I won’t do is push kids aside. If you think that’s okay then you need to get a life.

Todays’ Baseball Autographs Look Worse Than Ever

I love to collect autographs. I’ve met many Hall of Famers and former Negro League players who graciously took the time to sign my items.They carefully scrawled their name on a baseball in the same way an artist draws in a sketchbook. To me, their detailed cursive signatures are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost art. Current players who take their time to sign an item are few and far in between. Their penmanship is making baseball autographs look worse than ever. As a result, the value of baseball autographs will become more unstable in years to come as collectors question their authenticity.

For some, the increasingly common scribbles make certain baseball autographsbaseball autographs look undesirable to collect. For example, when a player like Ted Williams signed a baseball, he not only did so with care, but his unique style makes it difficult to forge. Modern advances in forensic science can scrutinize Williams’ signature to tell whether it’s real or fake by examining the consistency of his signature. For example, the loops in the letters “T” and “L” in his name (top right) are details that experts look at to verify its authenticity. But signatures like Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez’s (bottom right) are so sloppy that even if it is real, its authenticity will remain an issue. An autograph will be more desirable (and valuable) if the signature is written more neatly.

Current players who probably didn’t learn cursive have terrible signatures. In most cases they just scrawl their initials. I recently saw an 8×10 photo of the 2016 Chicago Cubs signed by twenty of its players. Most of the signatures looked like a toddler wrote them. They were completely illegible. Unfortunately, the decline in handwriting has been an issue for many years. According to a 2006 College Board report, only 15 percent of students who completed the essay portion of the SAT that year wrote in cursive. For teachers like me, this is a concern. This isn’t an issue that a lot of people care about though. Who needs to write by hand when you have an iPad? It’s difficult to argue with that logic. However, the impact of this decline in penmanship is something collectors should take seriously. It is an issue that’s only going to get worse.

Baseball Autographs Look Bad And Their Values Will Only Get Worse

Part of the reason baseball autographs look bad is because people don’t write their names neatly anymore. I rarely take the time to write my full name on a credit card receipt. In fact, if you forged my signature using a credit card receipt I signed a month ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell which one is real. Unfortunately, the erratic way players sign today will make it easier for people to forge their signatures because there won’t be as many authentic and consistent examples to measure against ones in question.

Collecting autographs from current players is risky. It won’t matter if you saw the player sign the item yourself. Potential buyers will scrutinize the item carefully even when you know it’s real. If players continue to sign items in a quick and sloppy way, collectors will see their value drop because no one will want to buy them (Then again, maybe players do this on purpose because they know someone will try to sell it?).

Who’d want a badly signed baseball? I wouldn’t. I prefer Ted Williams over anyone else’s any day. That beautiful cursive signature belongs in Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Rodriguez’s, on the other hand, belongs in the trash.