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All-Star Flashback PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00
For baseball fans of the Baby Boomer generation, this week's All-Star game brought back a flood of memories. Back in the day, the mid-season classic was a must-watch event for youngsters because they had the opportunity to see many baseball heroes for the first time. You might have read about them in newspapers or magazines, but with only an occasional game on TV and no interleague play, here were the stars of the game up close. So, let's set the baseball time machine for July 13th, 1954 and see what the teams looked like in front of 69,751 fans at Cleveland Stadium.

NL Starting Lineup

1) Granny Hamner, Phillies 2B - At age 27, this was his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

2) Al Dark, Giants SS - He played all 154 games for the pennant-winning New Yorkers and hit 20 homers.

3) Duke Snider, Dodgers CF - Contributed three hits and a walk in the game. 1954 was his second of five straight 40 HR seasons.

4) Stan Musial, Cardinals RF - A perennial All-Star, "Stan The Man" had a season where he hit .330 with 35 home runs and 126 RBI.

5) Ted Kluszewski, Reds 1B - "Klu" hit a home run off Bob Porterfield of the Senators in the 5th inning and led the NL with 49 round-trippers during the season.

6) Ray Jablonski, Cardinals 3B - Had 112 RBI as a rookie in '53 and 104 in '54, but was traded to the Reds before the '55 season and never had another productive year.

7) Jackie Robinson, Dodgers LF - Had two RBI in the game, but this was his final All-Star appearance.

8) Roy Campanella, Dodgers C - '54 was "Campy's" worst season, but he rebounded to with the NL MVP in '55.

9) Robin Roberts, Phillies P - The workhorse ace of the Phils staff, he led the NL in Wins (23), Complete Games (29), Innings Pitched (336+), Strikeouts (185), ERA (3.19) and WHIP (1.025). How much would that be worth on your fantasy team?

AL Starting Lineup

1) Minnie Minoso, White Sox LF - The "Cuban Comet" led the AL with 18 Triples during the season.

2) Bobby Avila, Indians 2B - Jump-started the Tribe's magical season by leading the AL with a .341 Batting Average.

3) Mickey Mantle, Yankees CF - This was the third of 16 All-Star appearances and '54 was the first season he topped 100 RBI.

4) Yogi Berra, Yankees C - His 125 RBI in '54 was the highest total of his career and helped him capture the AL MVP.

5) Al Rosen, Indians 3B - "Flip" had 100+ RBI for the fifth consecutive season.

6) Ray Boone, Tigers 3B - Had 20+ HR for five consecutive campaigns in the mid-50's.

7) Hank Bauer, Yankees RF - Another solid contributor to the Yankees dynasty, this was the his third straight All-Star selection.

8) Chico Carrasquel, White Sox SS - Played every game for the Pale Hose and led the AL with 718 plate appearances.

9) Whitey Ford, Yankees P - The Bronx Bombers' ace for over a decade, his lifetime winning percentage was .690.

Game Notes

> The American League won the game 11-9 with three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Al Rosen hit two home runs and had five RBI.

> Both Ray Boone and Gus Bell hit home runs. Ironically, each of these players ended up being the patriarch of three-generation MLB families. Boone was the father of Bob Boone as well as the grandfather of Aaron and Bret. Bell was the father of Buddy Bell and grandfather of David and Mike.

> Larry Doby, the first AL player to break the color barrier, hit a pinch-hit home run.

> Ted Williams missed almost all of the previous two seasons serving in the Korean War, but he did appear as a pinch-hitter late in the game.

> Willie Mays missed the '53 season due to military service and even though he won the MVP in '54, he was a reserve on this roster, replacing Snider later in the game.

> Other future Hall-of-Famers on the bench included Red Schoendienst, Pee Wee Reese, Nellie Fox and George Kell. In the bullpen, you could find Warren Spahn and Bob Lemon.

> Casey Stengel managed the AL team while Walter Alston was the skipper of the NL squad.

> Dean Stone of the Senators was the winning pitcher in his only All-Star appearance and Virgil "Fire" Trucks of the White Sox secured the save.

> Rookie Gene Conley of the Braves was the losing pitcher. At 6' 8", he also played six seasons in the NBA with the Celtics and Knicks during the 50's and 60's.

> Other memorable players included Gil Hodges, Carl Erskine, Harvey Haddix, Jimmy Piersall, Mike Garcia and Allie Reynolds.

> As with most All-Star games, there were also some rather obscure members of the squads. Do you remember Randy Jackson, Don Mueller, Marv Grissom, Jim Wilson, Jim Finigan, Sandy Consuegra and Bob Keegan?

60 years later and the names still burn bright.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 01:01
 
Putting in the Clutch Halfway PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 11 July 2014 00:00

The definition of "clutch" seems to be somewhat elusive for many people. The slang dictionary describes it as "the ability to deliver when peak performance is needed" and your imagination can take that beyond the realm of sports. The urban dictionary concurs by saying, "the ability to perform well on a certain activity at a particular moment, despite external pressures, influences or distractions." Of course, the term also has a tendency to fit other circumstances such as, "you are really craving a beer...you go to the fridge and there's one left...so clutch."

For longtime baseball fans, clutch has always been linked with RBI. After all, don't the leaders in that statistical category come through in the clutch? The answer, of course, is never that easy. The folks who study baseball statistics have known since the 70's that raw stats can be misleading. Batting in runs is a very important factor in a player's success but that outcome is influenced greatly by where he hits in the lineup, whether he has protection in that lineup and, more importantly, how many runners were on the basepaths when he came to the plate. To this end, baseballmusings.com gives you the historical data to determine "RBI Percentage." It is a result of a player's (RBI - HR) / Runners On, or in simplistic terms, what percentage of baserunners did a player drive in during the season. In 2013, the stat told us that Allen Craig (23.2%) was the best clutch hitter in baseball and only seven hitters had a number over 20%.

So, as the halfway point of the season comes and goes, let's look at the best (and worst) clutch hitters in the game. The statistical information is as of June 30th and includes players who had at least 100 runners on base when they came to the plate.

1) Miguel Cabrera 27% - The Tigers first baseman is far and away the best in the game in this category. He was 6th last year at 20.8% and certainly solidifies his reputation as a perennial MVP candidate.

2) Ryan Braun 22.9% - For some cynics that point to his 11 home runs and say the Brewers outfielder isn't having a solid bounce back season, this number is the counter-argument.

3) Robinson Cano 22.6% - After the huge free agent contract, the consensus opinion seems to be that 2014 has been a disappointment for the Mariners second baseman. This stat, along with the team being seven games over .500 and having the 2nd best run differential in the AL, tells a different story.

4) Omar Infante 22.2% - An under-the-radar signing by the Royals that has filled the black hole they had at second base, they're four games over .500 at the end of June.

5) Chris Colabello 22.0% - An early-season aberration, the Twins first baseman was already back in the minor leagues by the end of June.

6) Devin Mesoraco 21.9% - The Reds certainly seem to have made the right call by giving this catcher the full-time job.

7) Kyle Seager 21.4% - Another major contributor to the Mariners success, this third baseman drives in runs when 75% of America is already asleep.

8) Jose Abreu 21.3% - This 27-year-old Cuban rookie has given the White Sox everything they hoped for when they made a long-term commitment. As their everyday first baseman, he has a .953 OPS.

9) Charlie Blackmon 21.1% - Started off hot for the Rockies in April and the fantasy contribution (12 HR and 15 SB) is off the charts for this outfielder.

10) Aramis Ramirez 20.6% - Another reason the Brewers are the surprise team of the NL in 2014. This 35-year-old third baseman has been solid all season.

11) Mike Trout 20.4% - No surprise here for arguably one of the best players in the game, the Angels outfielder has improved this number from 2013's 17.1%.

12) Justin Morneau 20.4% - A nice comeback story for the Rockies first baseman.

Nelson Cruz leads the Majors in RBI through June, but his RBI percentage figure is only 17.3%. When it comes to everyday players, the bottom of the barrel looks like this...

> Danny Espinosa 6.6% - 17 RBI and a .217 BA in 244 at-bats for the Nationals second baseman.

> Ben Revere 6.8% - In the Phillies lineup for his speed, but this isn't very good production for an outfielder.

> Ben Zobrist 7.2% - A very productive player for the Rays over the years, this second baseman is having a forgettable season.

> Travis d'Arnaud 7.4% - Given the everyday job at catcher by the Mets, this youngster has already made a trip to Triple-A.

> Xander Bogaerts 7.5% - A fantasy darling this spring, the Red Sox third baseman has been dismal.

> Desmond Jennings 7.6% - The fact that two starters on the Rays are in the bottom six tells you everything about their stagnant offense. This speedy young outfielder is hitting .235 with 70 strikeouts halfway through the season.

For those of us from a certain generation, it would have been nice if Carlos Gonzalez had made the list because it would have brought back memories of "Clutch Cargo."

Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2014 20:51
 
PED's and Arpad Elo PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 04 July 2014 00:00

Recently, baseball writers and broadcasters have made a big deal about players who were suspended for using performance enhancing drugs in 2013 receiving a significant amount of All-Star votes. As this is written, Nelson Cruz leads the AL DH category, Melky Cabrera is 3rd among AL OF's, Jhonny Peralta ranks 4th for NL SS and Ryan Braun is 5th in the NL OF balloting. The conclusion of these pundits is that this phenomenon proves that fans don't care about steroid use, or cheating in general, by major league ballplayers.

Playing devil's advocate, maybe their conclusion is flawed. Is it possible that fans are willing to forgive a player's mistake as long as he's clean now and performing well on the field? Could it be that fans believe the testing program has some level of validity and these players couldn't really be cheating in 2014? The experts seem to think that because the All-Star voting is often perceived as a popularity contest, the fans really like and admire these players. Other evidence might suggest that just the opposite is the case.

Sports memorabilia in general, and baseball cards in particular, have always been a clear barometer of a player's popularity. The four cheaters already mentioned plus other suspended players from 2013, including Bartolo Colon, Everth Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal have essentially no presence in the trading card market. That is especially evident in the case of Braun, who was more of a "superstar" than the others. After winning the 2011 NL MVP and following up with an even better statistical season in 2012, his rookie cards from 2007 seemed to be increasing in value every day. Today, despite his return to All-Star relevance, his cards are worth next-to-nothing. In fact, if you'd like a quantity of them, just let me know and I'll put together a bulk order for you.

It is naive of scribes and members of the electronic media to think that fans have forgiven PED users and don't care that they cheated the game. The most popular cards from the 80's and 90's belonged to players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others. In the current marketplace, the value of that cardboard is minimal. If you want a really cheap way to wallpaper that extra bedroom, instead of heading for the home improvement store, just do it with Rafael Palmeiro baseball cards instead. You remember him, don't you? The guy with 569 HR's and 3,020 base hits.

If the memorabilia market doesn't convince you, then spend a little time browsing through the "MLB EloRater" on baseball-reference.com. The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skills of players in two-player games. The creator of the system, Arpad Elo, was a professor of physics at Marquette University who wanted an improved chess rating system. Although the system has its roots in chess, today it is used in many other games. The website has taken that premise and applied it to the ranking of baseball players. Every player was given an initial rating of 1,500 and then they simulated over 100,000 match-ups in order to give the players more realistic starting ratings. After that was completed, fans could go onto the site and do their own match-ups. A random player is selected to begin the process and following that, a second player within 250 points of the first player is selected. It is up to the user to determine who they believe was the better player. All those results create the "best of the best" along with a points list of 1,867 hitters and 1,186 pitchers. You can try it yourself and test your knowledge and opinion. The first two match-ups on my test were Adrian Gonzalez vs. Hank Sauer and Chris Chambliss vs. Chili Davis. The site gives you all the historical information and lifetime stats for both players.

So, you ask, how does the EloRater (and the fans) make out on their voting patterns? It seems as if the results have great validity as the top ten hitters are Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker and Eddie Collins. Difficult to argue with that list, and the pitching results are similar with Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Pete Alexander, Cy Young and Greg Maddux comprising the top five. As with All-Star voting, however, this exercise is swayed by popularity. Our cheaters from the PED era didn't rate well in the survey. Barry Bonds comes in at #79 (just behind Kenny Lofton) and it's doubtful that anyone reading this column thinks there were 78 position players better than him in baseball history. Mark McGwire is currently #172 (just ahead of Robin Ventura), while Rafael Palmeiro is at #233 (tied with Norm Cash) and Sammy Sosa currently occupies #242 (tied with Dolph Camilli). Only Roger Clemens seems to have slightly avoided the wrath of the fans at #25 among pitchers, but he's still behind Bert Blyleven and Phil Niekro.

So, maybe the fans do care after all. This one does.

 
Baseball Quotes - Part Deux PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 27 June 2014 00:00

In a recent visit, we touched on some great quotes from the 150-year history of our grand old game. The overwhelming response made it clear that baseball fans can never get enough when it comes to the characters of the game. As always, there will be the humorous one-liners and comic observations, but we'll also cover a few philosophical entries. After all, there was a minor league player in the 1940's named Aristotle Lazarou. A Cardinals Catcher from the 50's named Dick Rand could have had a relative named Ayn and batters do have to walk from the on-deck circle to the Plato.

> Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry on what happens when his sinker wasn't working, "The batter still hits a grounder, but the first bounce is 360 feet away."

> Giants Coach Rocky Bridges on why he refused to eat snails, "I prefer fast food."

> "You know you're having a bad day when the 5th inning rolls around and they drag the warning track." - Mike Flanagan, Orioles Pitcher

> Reds SS Barry Larkin on his future with the 2003 team, which had an interim manager and no general manager, "We've decided to take a wait-and-see approach - mostly wait, because we don't know who to see."

> "You can sum up the game of baseball in one word - You never know." - Joaquin Andujar, Cardinals Pitcher

> Phillies Pitcher Don Carmen, after getting only his second major league hit (in about 80 at-bats), was promptly picked off second base. When asked about it after the game, he said, "I had never been to second base."

> Indians broadcaster Nev Chandler said, "That base-hit makes Cecil Cooper 19-for-42 against Tribe pitching." His partner in the booth Herb Score added, "I'm not good at math, but even I know that's over .500."

> Browns Manager Luke Sewell responded to a sportswriter who had suggested his team played like dogs by saying, "Don't call 'em dogs. Dogs are loyal and they run after balls."

> "Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating." - Mariners broadcaster Ron Fairly

> "A baseball park is the one place where a man's wife doesn't mind him getting excited over somebody else's curves." - Brendan Francis

> "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." - Warren Spahn, Hall of Fame Pitcher

>  "The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major league game. The second-greatest feeling is to lose a major league game." - Chuck Tanner, Manager

> "Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything." - Toby Harrah, Rangers Infielder

> "The best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until the ball stops rolling and pick it up." - Bob Uecker

> "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." - Wes Westrum, Giants Catcher

> "Baseball is the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off." - Bill Veeck, Team Owner

> "I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it." - Rogers Hornsby

> "With those that don't give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can't think of anything to say to them." - Art Hill

> "Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curveball straightened out." - Joe Garagiola

> "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in Spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in Summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the Fall alone." - A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner

> "I am convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile." - Thomas Campbell Clark

> "You can't tell how much spirit a team has until it starts losing." - Rocky Colavito, Indians Outfielder

> "If it weren't for baseball, many kids wouldn't know what a millionaire looks like." - Phyllis Diller

> "Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is." - Bob Feller

> After losing a game 15-0, Pitcher Bo Belinsky said, "How can a guy win a game when you don't give him any runs?"

> "Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. If you lose at the end, you're choking." - Gene Mauch, Manager

> "There have only been two authentic geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare." - Actress Tallulah Bankhead

> "You don't realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcasting booth." - Mickey Mantle

> "The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor." - Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879

> "Pitchers are dumb. They don't play but once every four days. They're scratching their ass or pickin' their nose or somethin' the rest of the time. They're pitchin', most of them, because they can't do anything else." - Ted Williams

And don't forget, there's no crying in baseball.

 
Sports Autographs PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 20 June 2014 00:00

Earlier this week, the Old Duck had the opportunity to speak to about 75 local sports fans here in the Phoenix area about sports autograph collecting. Included in the audience was Special Assistant to the President of the Diamondbacks and Baseball Hall of Famer Roland Hemond. What follows is the text of my presentation.

Good morning and thanks for being here. Seems like a great turnout for June, which proves the point that no matter how health conscious our society becomes, donuts will continue to be a great motivator. As a starting point, let me ask how many of you have at least one sports autograph? (Note - almost everyone raised their hand). That response is certainly not surprising and, hopefully, you'll help turn this into an interactive session by sharing some stories about your autographs.

Sports autographs can be linked back to the early 20th century when Babe Ruth was more famous than the President of the United States. In fact, in 1930 the Babe was asked about his $80,000 salary and the fact that it was $5,000 more than the salary of President Hoover and the Bambino replied, "I know, but I had a better year."

Ruth became the first full-fledged sport icon and children would line up in droves just to see him and get him to sign a baseball they bought for 50 cents. Obviously, just like every other baseball fan, they didn't know what they held in their hands. To them, it was a piece of their hero. Generations later, it would become a high-priced piece of sports history. Today, a legitimate baseball with that autograph would be worth over $10,000.

In the post WWII era, autographs became even more popular and throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's, baseball was still king. The newer generation was going crazy for autographs from future Hall of Famers such as:

Mickey Mantle

Ted Williams

Hank Aaron

Roberto Clemente

Just like their parents before them, kids would wait all day for a glimpse of their favorite player and hope they would stop for five minutes to sign a baseball card or ball.

The 1980's is when the industry really got kick-started. The Topps monopoly on baseball card manufacturing ended in 1980 and multiple companies joined in the competition, like Donruss, Fleer, Leaf and Upper Deck. This explosion in the market created more interest and the concept of huge collectibles shows featuring autograph guests. Also during the 80's, the professional sports leagues began selling their authentic jerseys. It didn't take long for fans to realize that a player's autograph on the jersey would be the next big step in the business. Even more valuable would be a game-worn jersey.

And, of course, what would the 80's be without Michael Jordan? He came in at the perfect time for the sports autograph industry because he was a marketing powerhouse. Everywhere you looked, there was his face and there was his name. It was only a matter of time before people started grabbing everything of his that could be signed. Jordan's mainstream appeal paved the way for the autograph frenzy that has happened since.

Another important facet of autograph collecting came into play in the early 90's pioneered by the Upper Deck company. They had entered the baseball card market like a storm in 1989 with high-end production values never before seen by collectors. A few years later, they signed major sports celebrities to exclusive contracts and created "Upper Deck Authenticated." This division of the company created high-end collectibles signed by Michael Jordan, Ted Williams and others. In essence, they created the first patented autograph authentication process in the hobby. Every item had hologram technology, which created security and addressed the forgery issues that were rampant in the hobby during the 80's. If you walk into my house, there is a Ted Williams autographed Red Sox jersey in a frame that was produced and marketed by Upper Deck over 20 years ago. It has a hologram with a number that can be verified on the Upper Deck database to confirm authenticity. The retail price in the early 90's was $800...today's value is about $3,000.

As the Internet exploded in the mid-90's, authentication became much more important. People selling sports collectibles on sites like eBay found that buyers who were thousands of miles away were very hesitant to believe that an autographed item was real. Into that void stepped third party authentication firms that created historical records of player's autographs and offered (for a price) to authenticate the signature on any particular item. Even though there will always be a possible buyer for a raw autograph, the only way to get full value for an item is to have it authenticated. Let's look at three examples of how this process plays out.

1) A few years ago, I was referred to a lady who wanted to sell some sports items that belonged to her late husband. While the baseball cards didn't have much value, she also had a notebook filled with pages of team autographs from the late 30's. Each page represented a different team and included the Yankees, Pirates and many minor league franchises. I took on the project of marketing the notebook for her and started by contacting a sports memorabilia auction house. These types of companies deal with high-end collectibles and sell on the Internet using both website and hard copy catalogs. The auction house used their volume pricing to have the signatures authenticated and what we found was that even though over 90% of them were valid, some of the bigger stars didn't always sign their own signature. Rather than be bothered, they used clubhouse boys or other team personnel to sign their names. The main example on the '39 Yankees page was Joe DiMaggio. So, even though the notebook was sold for a decent price, the invalid autographs certainly diminished the price.

2) Another lady, right here in our community, had a few sports items that her husband had collected. One was a Johnny Unitas autographed photo that had the Upper Deck Hologram and was easy to sell on eBay for $125. She also had an autographed baseball with 20-25 signatures that appeared to be from the Dodgers team of the mid-50's. You could make out Robinson, Snider, Koufax as well many other stars and it looked just worn enough to seem legitimate. I explained to her that it would cost approximately $150 and shipping to submit the ball for authentication, but if it was real, the value would be at least ten times that much. Unfortunately, what we found was that all of the signatures on the ball were done by clubhouse boys or team reps back in the 50's. If it was a give-away item at Ebbets Field and hundreds were produced, it would have been logistically impossible for the players to sign that many items...so, it essentially had no value.

3) My next-door neighbor rang my bell one day and indicated that a friend of his had a very old autographed photo of a famous ballplayer that had been handed down in his family and wanted to get my assistance in selling the item. I told him it would depend first on the player and second on how much the cost would be to authenticate the signature. It turned out to be a 60+ year-old, creased photo of Cubs Hall of Famer Hack Wilson. The cost of authentication was $75 and shipping costs and I explained to them that this was a crapshoot. They'd be out about $100 if it wasn't legitimate but the autographed photo would be worth at least five times that much if it was real. After all, Hack Wilson died in 1947, so there aren't many of his autographs in the marketplace. They decided to roll the dice and the signature was deemed genuine. It sold on eBay for $900.

For your own personal collection, authentication is not essential if the collectibles are for your own viewing and pleasure. Very few of the autographs in my collection are authenticated, because I don't plan to sell them.

The next big change in sports autographs happened about 15 years ago. Baseball card manufacturers had spent most of the 80's and 90's over-producing their products and as a consequence, turning off collectors. Even today, when I go to look at someone's card collection, the vast majority are from this era and have little or no value. To revamp their products, these companies arranged for both current and retired players to sign a certain number of cards and inserted them randomly in packs. This was an expensive proposition and obviously increased the retail cost of the products, but it was a huge success. Customers were willing to pay a higher price and take on the "gamble" of possibly getting a limited-edition autograph card. On this table, you'll see dozens of autographed cards (including Hall of Famers) that came directly from packs. The other attractive feature for collectors was that there was no concern about forgery or authenticity. Each of the companies were working under licensing agreements from MLB and had to submit continuing verification of the signatures.

The downside for the average collector was twofold...1) autographs in the marketplace became more available, meaning that the one you got from a player when you were a kid was less scarce and 2) if you had autographed cards that were considered "after-market", their value was diminished. Recently, I was approached by a collector that has dozens of autographed baseball cards that they've collected over the years. The collection includes Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer, Willie McCovey, Fergie Jenkins and others. The problem, of course, is that none of them are authenticated. The collector was hoping to sell them for $40 a card, but that is totally unrealistic in today's marketplace. First of all, the average authentication fee would be $20 and then the card would have to compete with the ones from card companies. Most of the cards in this case can be purchased on eBay for prices ranging from $10-$25 and they are guaranteed to be genuine. The only time I've ever purchased "raw" autographs was when they were included in a large collection. There was a box that included over 500 cards that were signed over the years at Spring Training facilities. There were some good players, many forgettable players as well as dozens of duplicates and it was challenging to figure out what to do with the cards. One of the authentication services was offering a special at the time for $10 per card, so I picked out about 20 of the best players and shipped them out, hoping they were genuine. When they all came back authentic, I sold the ten best on eBay and then listed the other ten along with the remainder as a bulk lot. Clearly, including the authenticated cards helped verify to potential buyers that all the signatures were valid and the lot sold for $300-$400. The math tells you that these cards sold for about 50 cents each.

OK, enough about the technical aspects of the hobby. Let's talk about the joy of having a piece of history. My first story is about the two baseballs that you see in this case. Needless to say, as a youngster growing up in Boston, Ted Williams was my hero. I had the privilege of watching him play hundreds of times in the 50's, either from a $1 seat in the bleachers or, occasionally, from my uncle's box seats behind the Red Sox dugout. My mom and I moved to California in late 1959 and due to the family circumstances, we didn't have the opportunity to bring any personal items like baseball cards, magazines or other memorabilia. As an adult, you cherish childhood memories but it's also certain that other moments just fade away. In the mid-1980's, my wife (whose memory has also now faded away) gave me a Ted Williams autographed baseball as a birthday gift. She found it (in pre-Internet days) from a reputable dealer and it probably cost less than $50 at the time. When I showed the ball to my dad, he said "That's nice, but you already have one of those." He reminded me that Teddy Ballgame had signed a ball for me during batting practice when I was about 12 years-old and he had saved it for all those years. We immediately got in the car and drove to his apartment and there it was in a box in the hall closet. I was thrilled, and somewhat embarrassed, but now I had two Ted Williams autographed baseballs. I decided to keep the original one with the faded, ballpoint-pen signature and make a project of the newer one with the dark black "Sharpie" signed autograph. So, over the next few years, I took that ball to sports collectible shows and added signatures of other members of the 500 Home Run Club. So, if you look at the ball closely, you'll also see the autographs of Frank Robinson, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Willie Mays.

Also in the mid-80's, I embarked on another project involving autographs. As a subscriber to Sports Illustrated magazine since the 1960's, I had saved most of the issues because of the beautiful photography...especially on the covers. A local sports-themed apparel store was having a grand opening with Dale Murphy signing autographs for free. I had a beautiful cover from his MVP season in 1983 and decided to take advantage of the offer. Then, I found out that my next-door neighbor was a cousin of Gary Carter, so he got another '83 cover signed for me. At that point, I started to visit the exploding category of sportscard shows in Southern California and added Hank Aaron's autograph on the SI cover showing his 715th HR from 1974. As with many "labor of love" projects, this one essentially developed a life of its own. Over the next 20 years, the collection expanded to almost 200 autographed covers. It completely overran my house and now fills every wall in my garage and a few boxes on the floor. This past Spring, 30 of the covers (each signed by a baseball Hall of Famer) were part of a Spring Training display at the art gallery in Peoria City Hall.

The collection isn't limited to baseball and even includes a number of non-sports figures. For example, there are six covers signed by the models on the annual swimsuit issue...including Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland, Cheryl Tiegs and Heidi Klum. I didn't bring any of those today because Steve checked with the community office and they weren't willing to provide a defibrillator for today's meeting. There's also Gerald Ford (who wrote an article about sports in America while he was VP), Bob Hope (a part-owner of the Indians) and Shirley MacLaine (running through the Notre Dame line to promote a 1964 movie). In all, about 100 Hall of Fame members are represented along with a few obscure athletes like Steve Blass, Rob Deer, Art Mahaffey, Todd Marinovich, Chris Speier, Ron Swobada and Garo Yepremian. As you can imagine, there's a story behind every signature, but let me share just a few.

First, let's talk about the "Yankee Clipper", Joe DiMaggio. As you have already heard, even after being in the Majors for just a few years, he felt it was below him to sign group items like his teammates. In the first few decades of his retirement, Joe made quite a nice living making personal appearances. As chronicled by Ben Bradlee Jr. in the recent Ted Williams biography, his demands were as follows - he had to be the final person introduced at the banquet (or similar event), he had to be referred to as "The greatest living ballplayer" and the fee was $10,000 plus two first-class airline tickets from San Francisco to the destination. Once the tickets arrived in the mail, rather than bringing a companion or associate to the event, DiMaggio would go to the airline counter at the airport and cash in the second ticket. Once the sports collectibles market started to boom in the 80's and 90's, "Joltin Joe" was one of the biggest draws and insisted on being the highest-priced autograph guest with a fee of $150 or more. In the course of a weekend show, due to his amazing popularity, he could easily sign 1,000 autographs. Think about that math for a moment! And, not once in those 1,000 signings would he acknowledge or talk to the fans. Surrounded by "handlers" and show promoters, it was as close to an assembly line as you would ever see in that environment. There has never been an athlete with the arrogance or ego of DiMaggio.

People often ask me about the nicest and rudest sports heroes I've encountered. Even though Ernie Banks was never on a SI cover (by himself), I did stand in line at a L.A. show to add his signature to the 500 HR ball. Once I got to the front and Ernie saw the ball and the other autographs on the surface, he couldn't stop asking me questions about the history of the ball and started reflecting on all the other players. After a few minutes, the show promoters started getting anxious, as there were at least 100 people in line behind me. "Mr. Cub" eventually realized he was making other fans wait and apologized to me because he couldn't continue the conversation. Once, at a show in Santa Monica, the main draw was Stan Musial and many of us were waiting outside the door for the 10:00 AM opening. "Stan the Man" walked into the lobby (with his pal Red Schoendienst) and said, "Are all you nice people waiting for me?" At that point, he reached into the pocket of his sports jacket, pulled out a harmonica and played "Take me out to the ballgame" while we all sang along. Other experiences that were very positive include Muhammad Ali, Bill Walton, Johnny Podres, Carmen Basilio, Frank Howard and Harmon Killebrew.

On the other side of the equation, you'd be surprised at some of the stars who acted like jerks. Interestingly, the two worst in my experience played on the same championship team. From the 1979 Pirates, both Willie Stargell and Dave Parker made you feel like they were really doing you a favor and turned the moment into a real negative. In the non-baseball category, the worst was basketball's Nate "Tiny" Archibald, who refused to personalize the signature even though there wasn't anyone else waiting for him to sign.

Of course, there are always moments when you're taken by surprise. Rick Barry, who certainly had a negative persona on the court, couldn't have been nicer and wrote all kinds of personalized notes on the cover. Warren Spahn looked up at me when it was my turn to get his autograph and said, "Would you mind if I went to take a piss?"

There are also a number of different categories in which the autographs have been acquired. In addition to sports collectibles shows where you pay a set fee, many of the signatures came at actual sports events. Spring Training games over the years yielded autographs from Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Ron Santo and Frank Robinson. There were also a group of signatures that came through a third party. Those include Pete Rose, Joe Torre, Barry Bonds, Wayne Gretzky and Tommy Mason. During my working days in Southern California, many of my business locations were used for filming due to their proximity to studios and PR firms. If any commercials or videos included a famous athlete, part of the deal was that they had to sign one of my SI's. That connection led to signatures from Evander Holyfield, Jim Palmer, Randy Johnson and others.

About 25% of the collection came through mailings that I did in the late 90's and early 2000's. The appropriate magazine cover was mailed to the athlete along with a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return. Also included was a $25 check for them to donate to their favorite charity. Occasionally, the cover and check would be returned because the athlete was under contract to Upper Deck or some other company. One athlete (Lance Alworth) returned the cover indicating the charitable donation would have to be three times the amount. Some stars (especially from the 50's) would include a note with the signed cover thanking you for remembering them. Only once, in 40-50 mailings, did someone actually cash the check but never return the cover...former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.

On the side tables, you'll find a representation of the collection, including some we've talked about today.

Now. it's your turn. Please feel free to ask any questions and share one of your autograph stories. Thanks so much for taking the time to be with me today.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 08:11
 
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