Mo Vaughn was one of the most feared hitters of his generation. ‘The Hit Dog’ spent the best part of his career, nearly a decade, with the Boston Red Sox. The three time All-Star and 1995 AL MVP finished his career with a batting average just shy of .300 while belting well over 300 home runs and driving in over 1,000 runs. The following year, playing in 161 games, he batted .326, with 44 home runs, and 143 RBIs.
Vaughn signed cards for the recently released 2020 Topps Archives Signature Series Retired Player Edition series. He talked with me about his first autograph experience, seeing himself on a trading card for the first time and his love and admiration for baseball history.
TR: The autograph experience is such a special moment in sports. When was the first time you signed for a fan?
MV: was drafted in 1989 and went to the instructional league in Winter Haven, Florida in the middle of the summer. I went straight from Winter Haven to New Britain, Connecticut. Playing Double A ball in New Britain, that was the first time I was asked for my autograph. It was special.
TR: As a young athlete, you said Jackie Robinson was a hero of yours. Who else inspired you as a young guy coming up?
MV: I was a big Julius Erving fan. You knew what class was watching him. You knew that Dr. J was a class act. I’m from Connecticut, so I followed the Yankees in the seventies. Those were great teams. I followed Reggie Jackson, Chris Chambliss and those great teams. With the Red Sox you had Jim Rice, Yaz, Dwight Evans and those great Red Sox teams, too. That’s where my focus was at the time.
TR: What did it mean to you to share the field with players you looked up to?
MV: I got called up by the Red Sox and my first game was against the Yankees. I couldn’t believe that I was playing there. I got to first base and Don Mattingly was there. I have a lot of respect for the veterans. I think it took me a whole year until I realized I belong there. It took me awhile to stop being in awe and try to go play against them.
MV: It’s crazy. It was when I was coming out of the Cape Cod League. The league was really becoming established and they were making cards. That was one of the first times I saw myself on a card. It was crazy! I never thought I would ever have a shot to play as a professional. Then to even have a baseball card, that’s a while different level. It sprung out of nowhere for me.
TR: You were in the league for years as a three time All-Star and the 1995 AL MVP. Do you have a man cave or office where you have memorabilia displayed?
MV: I have a place, an office, where I have my sports academy. I have bats and jerseys and other collectibles. It’s funny, I got out of the game when I didn’t really want to. I was injured. It took me a little bit of time to get back to what I loved about baseball. I think I was angry for a while about where I was and what had happened. Then when I got back into it, I realized what it was about from the beginning.
I wish I had collected all kinds of autographs and all that stuff. I have some stuff from Paul Molitor. I have stuff from George Brett. I have autographs from Cal Ripken, Jr. I have autographed jerseys with some great words from those guys on them. Those are the types of things that you really cherish. For me, that was the greatest era. Coming up, the late seventies and eighties, was baseball as baseball was meant to be. Guys like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Robin Yount, I was lucky enough to play against those guys before they retired. I got to play against Cal for a few years before he retired. Those were great times for me.
TR: Do you wish that the jersey swap of today was more of a tradition when you were in the big leagues?
MV: I don’t care about what everyone wants to call the steroid era, I was great friends with Rafael Palmeiro. I was great friends with Roger Clemens. I don’t have anything from him. I wish I could go back in time and get a lot of those pieces from those guys. It just exemplifies the greatest of the game. I wish I had taken advantage of it when I was playing. You don’t want to bother guys but now I wish I had bothered all of them!
TR: What one item would you go back in the time machine and ask for?
MV: I think I have it. I got a jersey from Cal Ripken with a nice inscription on it. To me, he represented everything that was good about baseball. I got the autograph that most exemplifies what baseball was all about. You look at what Cal did. You look at his example of going to work every single day. You respected that. He watched me long enough to have some nice things to say to me that I value to this day. I value them because it was coming from him.
TR: What is your most memorable baseball card show or signing?
MV: One of my greatest autograph sessions was when I went out to San Francisco at the Parc 55. I remember this vividly. I had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Sparky Anderson with me. I had The Big Red Machine there. I was running to get coffee and everything for these guys. It was the best time I ever had at an autograph session. I just respect that they played for the right reasons and they played the right way. I just have a ton of respect for that entire era.
MV: What real circumstance, as an athlete, do you have to not sign an autograph? In 2020, I am lucky for someone to ask me for my autograph. It’s something I should do. I have had a lot of great experiences and met a lot of great people. I think that all autograph interactions are something to cherish. I was fortunate to play for a great franchise that even got greater after I left, with all of the World Series titles. The Red Sox put my name in the map. It’s a tremendous history and a lot to be proud to be a part of. If people recognize that I think you should welcome that with open arms.