Must-click link: The lost art of the baseball signature

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Tyler Kepner of the New York Times has a really interesting story today about the seemingly lost art of the baseball signature. While signatures from most marquee players were once easily-identifiable, it’s increasingly difficult to to tell one from the next. Seriously, look at the baseballs in the story and try to figure out who signed them. It’s nearly impossible.

So, why the change in quality? Well, it’s likely a combination of factors. Curtis Granderson explained that he that he doesn’t have the time to write a neat signature when he’s signing for hundreds of people at a time. Others say that handwriting just isn’t a priority in schools like it once was. Here’s a sample of the story:

Kate Gladstone, a handwriting instructor from Albany and the director of the World Handwriting Contest, said Ruth had a model signature. Ruth attended St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a Baltimore orphanage and boarding school where a scribbled name, Gladstone guessed, would not have been tolerated.

Whatever players’ upbringing, signatures mostly stayed legible for decades. Even after Depression-era budget cuts de-emphasized handwriting in schools, Gladstone said, people born in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s tended to be taught by well-trained instructors.

Today’s players, many born in the 1980s, were not. Children learned print and cursive then, as now, but handwriting was generally less of a priority in curriculums.

“In the ‘80s, we started to have people basically say, ‘Oh, handwriting’s not important, because in five or 10 years everything in the world will be computerized,’ ” Gladstone said. “But I don’t think we’re yet at the stage of typing our names onto baseballs.”

The entire piece is well worth reading, so check it out.

Report: Red Sox, J.D. Martinez close to a deal

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox and outfielder J.D. Martinez are close to a deal. He takes care to note that the deal is not done yet and the details are not known yet.

Martinez, 30, entered the offseason as the top free agent hitter. Last season, between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, he hit a lusty .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances. He missed the first 33 games of the season with a sprained right foot; one wonders what his numbers might’ve been like if he hadn’t been injured.

The Red Sox were the team most strongly linked to Martinez throughout the offseason, despite the relatively slow-moving market. Martinez said he wants to play in the outfield and the Red Sox are currently spoken for at all three positions with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez is also penciled in at DH. Should the Martinez deal become official, the Red Sox may try to trade Bradley and move Benintendi to center field. If Martinez is willing to concede his outfield wishes, the Red Sox could slot him in at DH and move Ramirez to first base.

The AL East is shaping up to be a familiar two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees. The addition of Martinez, in a way, answers the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton.