Baseball On My Brain


I keep thinking about autographs

This has been a post I’ve been working on since an ad for Steiner Sports in the latest issue of Conde Nast Portfolio got me thinking about autographs once again. It’s not meant to pick on the Steiner folks – but it did get me thinking about what they sell.

I used to really be into autographs, all the way into my late 20s. I lugged around baseballs and the occasional magazine cover in hopes of getting a player to sign it. I really thought having that signature would make my life better.

And as I just finished putting shelves up for a whole bunch of that stuff, I realize that it really hasn’t.

It’s not to say that there aren’t certain ones that I think are a little cooler than others, but I know that none of them really bring any more happiness, peace, or joy to my life than any other. They are what they are – signed baseballs, nothing more, nothing less.

I guess I could make the case that they are connections to certain greats from the game – players who I watched and got the chance to see play first hand. I’ll give you that.

What does irk me a bit is the buying of memorabilia. To me, it presents a feigned sense of connection – it I’m paraphrasing from an interview with Hall of Fame basketball player and fellow University of San Francisco alum Bill Russell, forgive me.

The reality is that I will never see Babe Ruth or Ted Williams play, nor will I run into Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, or Roberto Clemente at a card show or at the airport. I won’t get to interview Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner on the radio.

To think that purchasing something bearing their signature actually brings me closer to them is, well, ridiculous in my mind.

Sometimes you just have to accept that your path won’t cross with someone else’s. It’s just the way it is.

But back to my autograph hunters.

Given that I’m writing this in the off-season, I’m relying on memory of those I see who get to the gates of the ballpark before they open, rush down the aisles to the prime spots behind the dugouts, and ready themselves with the requisite materials that are the tools of the autograph hunter.

They jockey for position – some amateurs, some more seasoned to the game. They call out names – nicknames, Mr. So-and-so, and my personal favorite, “hey number so-and-so!” Mostly they ask nicely, although sometimes the requests lack common courtesy, or are laced with an air of expectation or entitlement.

Some score, some don’t. In this 80-90 minute ritual before most baseball games, nights are made or tarnished based on whether or not a player signs an autograph.

To be honest with you – I’m not a hater when it comes to the autograph seekers. I may not do it anymore – but I’m not here to tell you not to do it.

What I am suggesting is that you simply be clear in your purpose for wanting that autograph. Is it because it’s from your favorite player – someone who has really influenced you? Is it because it’s from a superstar or Hall of Famer? Or is it because you want to flip it and make some cash off it?

Or is it because you’re simply addicted to the notion of signed memorabilia?

A harsh thing to say, I’m sure, but I wanted to put it out there.

Regardless – just be clear and honest with your intentions and motivations – and realize that ultimately, an autographed piece of memorabilia is just another physical thing that while it might provide some enjoyment and pleasure, it won’t provide true happiness.

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