It’s easy to collect ordinary autographed items but a great signed photo has to depict a classic, memorable moment and should include an image that tells the story like nothing else. We’ve put together a list of some of the best autographed sports photos that can easily be obtained. There are far rarer and valuable signed photos out there, of course, but for this purpose, it’s also important they be accessible in order to be on the list.
These are iconic photos commonly associated with the athletes and can be added to your collection
It’s far from “complete”. You may have choices of your own. The bottom line is that these are images we don’t think you’d ever regret owning and can be added to your collection just by clicking the link of each one on the list.
Willie Mays catch: This great photo of Willie running down a deep fly ball hit by Vic Wertz at the Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series is a classic. Thankfully, Willie’s been around long enough to sign a lot of them and they’re not that expensive. Definitely one of the best autographed sports photos on the market, it’s a legendary moment that’s still wonderfully nostalgic thanks to the ballpark and the fans.
Don Larsen’s perfect game: He’s the only one who’s ever done it. Don Larsen has made a nice post-career living signing autographs and there are a few different images from his perfect game. If you can afford one signed by both Larsen and catcher Yogi Berra, go for it.
Ripken’s streak record: Always generous with autograph seekers, Ripken understood fans would likely want a piece of the streak, which will likely live forever. There are plenty of photos from the evening in Baltimore when Cal surpassed Lou Gehrig’s record. Was it really that long ago?
Bill Mazeroski’s homer: The shot of Maz, hanging onto his cap for dear life, with a huge smile and an arm in the air as he reaches home, is one for the ages. We’re guessing he’s signed thousands of them and for a very reasonable cost, having his autograph on maybe the greatest moment in Pirates history is a no-brainer.
Carlton Fisk’s homer: The Red Sox lost the Series, but the epic battle with the Reds in Game 6 that ended with Fisk encouraging his deep fly to left to “stay fair!” It did and today, you can even find photos that Fisk has signed with that inscription. Just a fun piece, no matter what your rooting interest.
Pete Rose’s dive: Yes, Pete signs for pay hundreds of days per year. Yes, Rose autographs are everywhere and not everyone is a fan. But if you love baseball, the great shot of Rose sliding headfirst into third base is pretty hard to top. It pretty much summarizes the impression we all had of him prior to the mid-1980s.
Kirk Gibson’s homer: In the space of five years we had a couple of unforgettable World Series home run moments. Gibson’s blast off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 Fall Classic came with him limping to the plate with a sore leg that had kept him on the bench and remains one of the greatest moments ever—unless you’ve an A’s fan, of course.
Joe Carter’s homer: Five years after Gibson, we had Carter. Joe’s long ball off Mitch Williams in 1993 gave the Blue Jays the championship and his excited romp around the bases is captured on plenty of images. Even if you’re not a Jays fan, it’s one of the best sports photos ever made.
Derek Jeter’s dive: One of the signature moments of Jeter’s Hall of Fame worthy career, this photo captures him at his hustling best. Steiner Sports’ contract with Jeter means there is a good supply of authentic signatures on one of the most famous modern era plays.
Y.A. Tittle’s exhaustion: He’s an old man now—but he already looked like one more than 50 years ago when he knelt on the grass after throwing an interception against the Steelers. Tittle’s 17-year career had been brilliant but the brutal hit by John Baker of the Steelers helped push him to retirement.
Photographer Morris Berman’s famous image of the bloodied Tittle remains on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It captures the brutal nature of football in the 1960s. Tittle has never been fond of the photo, but has signed many through the years in private signing sessions and at autograph shows.
Bart Starr’s sneak: It was -13 in Green Bay as the 1967 NFL Championship Game kicked off at Lambeau Field. The aging but still determined Packers put together an incredible last minute drive capped by Starr’s quarterback sneak that propelled them to Super Bowl II.
Chuck Mercein, #30, isn’t signaling ‘touchdown’. He’s showing the official he hadn’t pushed Starr into the end zone, which may have generated a penalty flag. Starr is no longer able to sign autographs so it’s probably wise to grab one of these while they are still in the market.
Joe Namath in Super Bowl III: His profile wouldn’t be anything like what it became had Joe Namath not led the Jets to the AFL’s first victory over the NFL in the championship game. A watershed moment for pro football. Namath handing off to Matt Snell with the palm trees in the background is one of the few signed images you can own from the historic game.
Dwight Clark, “The Catch”: Joe Montana’s legacy bloomed that January day in 1982 but the man who caught the pass that sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl was Clark. When a moment has its own name, it’s not likely to be forgotten anytime soon and since Clark isn’t a Hall of Famer, most are dirt cheap. Adding Montana’s signature is a nice touch.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s catch: In the social `era, this one became a classic within 24 hours. The rookie almost seemed to defy gravity as he reached up to snare the pass that made him instantly famous and generated an entirely new revenue stream off the field. Maybe Beckham becomes a Hall of Famer. Maybe not. Either way, it’s a play (gloves or not) that won’t ever leave the pro football highlight reel.
Jerry Kramer and Vince Lombardi: Why is it that so many of the photos from the 1960s have become classics? The shot of Kramer helping hoist the victorious Vince off the field after Super Bowl II speaks volumes about Lombardi’s impact on the players he coached. It’s too bad he didn’t live long enough to sign them.
Dr. J’s takeoff: As one skywalking NBA superstar left, another was just beginning. Julius Erving has a great signature and when paired with the famous photo of him soaring to the him–afro soaring majestically—you’ve got something both old school and amazingly cool. There’s another great low-angle shot from his days with the Sixers but the really old school shot with the red, white and blue ball of the ABA is terrific.
Jordan’s flight: So many Jordan photos. So not cheap. The best is probably this dunk contest shot from early in his career. MJ’s exclusive deal with Upper Deck makes it easy to find an authentic autographed photo but just understand you’ll pay for the privilege. Few athletes are known world-wide but Jordan was the undisputed king of American sports stars for a dozen years or so. He’s still revered for what he did on the court.
The 30×40 size makes this a spectacular piece.
Larry and Magic: Two of the most photographed athletes of the 1980s, Bird and Magic were fierce rivals who developed a friendship thanks to a commercial. Their endless battles for NBA supremacy played out year-after-year.
As Larry was honored at the Boston Garden for his Hall of Fame career back in 1993, Magic came dressed in his Laker warmups—with a Celtic t-shirt underneath. Perfect.
Bobby Orr’s goal: Probably the most famous hockey photo ever—and one of the greatest sports photos ever shot. You don’t even have to love hockey to appreciate it. Before Gretzky, Orr was the NHL’s Superman and this photo is evidence. He’s not a regular at autograph shows but does enough signing to where this one is available.
Gretzy and Gordie: There are tons of photos of hockey’s two greatest icons but this one is just impossible to top. What are the odds that the young kid—one of many Gordie ‘hooked’ for photos during his playing days—would grow up to break so many of his records? Cosmic craziness. Obviously, the photos with only Gordie’s autograph are a little less pricey.
1980 Miracle On Ice: A bunch of college kids gave the U.S. psyche a shot in the arm with their monumental upset of the Soviet Union at Lake Placid. Photos from that night are many and the cost depends on how many members of Team USA have signed the photo.
Ron Turcotte and Secretariat: If you weren’t around, it’s a little hard to explain how huge Secretariat was in 1973. ‘Super horse’ captivated the country and this image of jockey Ron Turcotte looking back at the field in the Belmont Stakes (he needed binoculars) tells you everything you need to know about the dominance of the Triple Crown winner. We won’t see the likes of Secretariat again. A very inexpensive slice of sports history.