What's the deal with autographs?

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I’m not going to say that baseball news is slow, but this is one of the better things I’ve read today:

It always angers me that some athletes will go to great lengths to sign
legibly, and others will scribble their name, and be done with it.
Personally, I think it is a travesty for an athlete to sign his name in
such a way that you cannot decipher what it says. Now I realize that
players sign so much that it is ridiculous, and naturally some players
sign more than others, but you can’t tell me that a player can’t at
least write two or three letters that can be read by the average person.

Yeah, it’s that bad.  But at least it provides me a basis for jumping into a subject I raised on my old blog a couple of years ago and which probably worth raising again: what’s the freakin’ point of autographs? I simply don’t understand the appeal. Sure, I understand that they’re valuable, but why? On a simple level, an autograph is proof that you
were in the presence of someone famous.  But why should anyone else care that I — or some autograph dealer more likely — met someone famous? It’s like tulips or dotcom stocks or something. Price that doesn’t correspond with much if any value.

To be fair, the article linked above is about kids getting autographs and I sort of understand it for kids. They’re told by their parents that autographs are worth having, so kids seek them out.  If obtained in person, they’re a handy vehicle for getting the kid near the ballplayer, and that is kind of cool.  But isn’t the biggest takeway from that the fact that the kid actually stood next to the ballplayer and maybe said a word or two to him? I got Alan Trammell’s autograph when I was a kid. It’s in my basement somewhere and I haven’t looked at it in years. But I still vividly remember meeting him and talking to him, and I’d have the same emotional warm fuzzies about it if I had simply walked up to the crowd next to him and didn’t walk away with an autograph.

So sure, the kids can have their autographs because they may not go up to the ballplayer otherwise, but what about the grownups? It seems mildly twisted to me. A grownup either gets an autograph at a signing or by interrupting a celebrity in public.  If it’s the former, it’s just an act of commerce, so what’s so special about it?  If the latter, man, isn’t that kind of rude?  Can’t we invade their personal privacy simply by pointing our cameras and gawking and leave the final line — thrusting personal objects at them for them to handle, sign and return — uncrossed?

I’m not trying to be a total killjoy about this or anything. I have some autographs. Some — the ones I got myself as a kid, mostly — I like. Trammel, Gaylord Perry, Stan Musial, Al Kaline. Others I obtained in the course of my baseball card habit. For example, I never met George Brett, but I have his autograph on a ball and a 1980 Topps card. Same with Don Sutton and Eddie Matthews and Paul Molitor.  But either way, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from them. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to mean. I’m not sure I’d ever obtain another autograph for as long as I live.

Claire Smith becomes the first woman to win the BBWAA’s Spink Award

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ESPN
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The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Claire Smith the winner of the 2017 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. She becomes the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor. She will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 30.

Smith, 62, covered the New York Yankees for five years beginning in 1983 for the Hartford Courant before becoming a columnist with the New York Times. She later served as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998-2007. She is now ESPN’s news editor of remote productions, responsible for the integration of news and analysis in live game broadcasts and the Baseball Tonight and Sports Center studio programs. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of three New York Times Publishers’ Awards.

Smith was named Sports Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1997, received the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association of Women in Sports Media in 2000 and the Sam Lacy Award at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 2010. She has served on the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and was the chair of the New York chapter of the BBWAA in 1995 and 1996.

There will be Under Armour logos on the front of baseball uniforms

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Under Armour
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Yesterday’s announcement that Under Armour will be taking over the MLB uniform business brought with it an added bit of news: for the first time, beginning in 2020, baseball uniforms will feature the maker’s logo on the front of the jersey. From Paul Lukas of UniWatch:

While the Majestic logo has appeared on MLB sleeves, the Under Armour logo will be appearing on the upper-right chest area.

Lukas has a bunch of Photoshopped images of MLB players wearing uniforms with UA logos on it to give us a sense of how it will likely look.

It’s certainly weird and in some cases even a bit jarring. It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put corporate logos — including paid advertisements, not just the logos of the companies which make the gear — but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.

As I wrote back in April when the NBA approved ads on uniforms, there may even be a bright side to all of this.

Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.

I’m not holding my breath about that, but anything that takes away even a bit of the faux public trust luster that sports leagues and teams use to manipulate their fans is a good thing. Maybe it’ll make, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers look less venerable and sharp. But maybe it’ll remind people that they’re just business units of a $10 billion industry, not some fourth branch of government or whatever.