I had a buddy move recently, and in the midst of transferring boxes, we stumbled across (ahem, purposefully went searching for and examined) his collection of 1990s Phillies autographs.
Nothing gets my blood pumping like an authentic Micky Morandini-signed baseball.
The problem: most of the hats, shirts and balls were near-impossible to identify. At least we got to cheat when it came the autographs signed on the individual player's card. Still, most of the time, we had to chalk it up to a "Yorkis Perez" and move on. If we couldn't tell who it was, that was our answer: it was Yorkis Perez.
Well, Mike Schmidt is evidently pretty unhappy about this sort of thing. So much so that he wrote an essay for the Associated Press to make his point known.
Since when did the signatures of today's celebrity athletes become worse than your local physician's scrawl on a prescription slip?
He goes on to describe an incident back in Spring Training, when he asked for and received autographed balls from members of the current Phillies that he could auction for charity. The problem: he didn't know who was who.
A few weeks later, I'm doing inventory on some items I have gotten for the auction and I open the box of balls and I can't read any of the signatures. I study and study, hoping to see a curve or a clue that would lead me to the name.
I asked my wife if she recognized any. None. I made out Roy Halladay, Jim Thome and Jimmy Rollins. A couple had the number -- thank you Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence. That was a great clue, at least for me, but what about the person who buys it at the auction and may not know the numbers?
Later on, he details an event that took place on Sept. 11, 1962, when his mother was on a plane with golf legends Jack Nickluas, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer (Note: How about that f*cking plane ride?). Apparently, all the signatures were spotless and two of three were personalized.
Things have undoubtedly changed in professional sports, but here's one Hall of Famer apparently so fed up with autograph chicken scratch that he had to write about it. A lot of times when I hear former athletes criticize the current crop, it can be easy to chalk it up to the fact that current guys are making a whole lot more money than the players of the past.
HBO's Broad Street Bullies documentary had the '74 Flyers recount their nights hobnobbing at a bar in South Jersey, just hanging out after games. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and (back to baseball) Pat Burrell have kept that torch mostly burning in the present day, but the modern athlete just seems so much further removed from the fan than the guys of the past.
And once you read his whole column, it's really hard not to wish you had a ball from Mike Schmidt.
Autograph utopia: Neat signatures, kind words, handshakes, no pushing or shoving, quality opposed to quantity. Any chance?
The guy seems to care. Scribble or no scribble, caring is always good enough for me.
LINK: Schmidt: Autographs getting too hard to read [CSN]