The look of a Major League autograph has definitely changed over the years. You once could look at a signed baseball and be able to read each name as players usually took enough time to craft an identifiable signature. These days, not so much. Players raised in an electronic age quickly scribble some often illegible letters and most of us are left to guess the name. Some think of it as a “style” all their own–proper cursive letter formation be damned.
Maybe it’s because professional athletes are adapting to high volume autograph requests. Maybe it’s just a generational thing. Maybe it’s because each player wants to show off what sets them apart. Whatever the case, it’s a trend that doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Players in this era sign autographs in bulk for card or memorabilia companies. Some athletes will sign a few thousand at a time which doesn’t help in the legibility department. Today’s players do have a significant number of public appearances to make and are encouraged to sign for fans at the ballpark when possible. Many players donate to their own charities which includes even more, you guessed it, autograph signings. That means a quick, more unique autograph allows players to sign at a much more rapid pace.
Players from the past are mystified by the trend, wondering why players take the time to sign if no one can read what they wrote.
Interestingly, the Chicago Cubs recently invited Hall of Famer Billy Williams and a collection of current players to discuss the subject for a video. The players themselves had a tough time deciphering their teammates’ penmanship, especially the loop-de-loop of catcher Willson Contreras. Watch below.