In reading the Editor’s Blog on the ‘state of the hobby’ as a new year began last week, I was particularly interested in the comments about today’s players and lazy autographs.
Of course, the “patron saint” of bad autographs was Vernand Morency. You see Vernand’s “autograph” was really not much more than a “V” or a check mark and that kind of got the ball rolling on bad signatures on trading cards. We used to call autographs like that a “give-up” autograph because of the lack of effort involved.
One of the best articles Beckett ever created focused on comparing the autographs of Morency and some other sloppy autograph signers to those of the children of Beckett staffers. Done with some humor and some love, it was one of the best I’d read in a while.
I remember hearing about Dale Earnhardt Sr. waking up each morning and spending one to two hours going to his office to do nothing more than sign autographs for his legions of fans. While not everyone may like NASCAR, when your biggest star is willing to make that type of commitment, many others will follow suit.
The autograph topic came up again when I spoke recently with authenticator Jimmy Spence inside Signature Collectibles here in the Dallas area. The best part of running into him is that he and his staff always have interesting stories. One of the people working with Jimmy informed me that they believe approximately 80 percent of the Thurman Munson autographs on team-signed Yankee balls are real and not of the ‘clubhouse’ variety. We found that interesting because the perception was that Thurman was noticeably rough with almost all fans (and sportswriters).
Jimmy told us a great story about how as a young man, he and some friends went to Norwood, New Jersey to visit another friend and trying to get Thurman’s autograph by going to his house. When they knocked on the door, Thurman apparently let his dog out and the dog chased the kids a block or two before turning around going back home.
The other fascinating part was comparing the percentage of good Munson signatures to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s. “Dem Bums” had a clubhouse man named Charles di Giovanni. I remember reading a long time ago in Sandy Koufax’ 1966 autobiography that he could sign the Dodgers’ names better than the Dodgers themselves. Today, when you hear about secretarial signatures on those balls, there’s a good chance they were penned by Charlie D. And he was so good that even players could end up with baseballs he signed. Who knew or cared 60 years ago that signed baseballs would be worth what they are today? For the people who received a “signed” Dodgers baseball, it probably made them feel good and they could never imagine their heroes using a ghost signer. Their descendants who later tried to authenticate and sell one got stuck holding the bag.
One other note for those of you who like to follow our charity show promotional efforts:
Our Adat Chaverim Brotherhood president, Jerrry Retsky, donated about 10,000 great cards, mostly from the late 1970’s, for Plano III, our next charity fundraising show. I think we’re up to about 30,000 cards in donations and are always looking for more. We give them away to our attendees. Even though I’ve seen the faces on those cards many times, it’s still a blast to thumb through those names from 35 or so years ago.