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“I want his autograph. That’s all I want.”

Feb 8, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

Scott Cacciola writes a fantastic and somewhat disturbing article in the New York Times about the people who camp out for Derek Jeter‘s autograph at the Yankees training facility down in Tampa.

Cacciola outlines the whole, elaborate setup outside the facility. About the Yankees employee who shouts at the autograph seekers regarding the exact way they are to lineup and behave if they expect to get a chance at a Jeter autograph.  And that chance, Cacciola reports: about 10% that he’ll even sign. And if he signs, only a fraction of the people waiting outside will get an autograph.

He also writes about some of the specific people who take a whole heck of a lot of effort to try to get that signature:

“I guess I’ll have to come back again tomorrow if he doesn’t sign today,” said Melissa Davis, a patient-support technician at a hospital in nearby Clearwater, whose prize for showing up at 4 a.m. was the sixth spot in line, a prime piece of real estate. She had not slept in two days, she said. Or was it three? She was, by her own admission, bordering on delirium.

“I’m basically on a mission at this point,” said Davis, who kept herself occupied by reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” on her Kindle. “I want his autograph. You can’t really talk to him because he’s not going to sit and talk to you. So I want his autograph. That’s all I want.”

I’ve written at length about my hangups with autographs. I don’t really understand the appeal. On a simple level, an autograph is proof that you were in the presence of someone famous. That you saw, in this instance, Derek Jeter, and he took a second to sign his name for you.  I’m not sure what that brief, exceedingly superficial interaction does for a person. You’ve seen Jeter on TV. If you’ve gone to Yankee Stadium you’ve seen him in person. If you’ve managed over the past 19 years to hit some Yankees event or another you may have very well seen him up close and in person. Maybe you even snapped his photograph.

But what does the autograph give you? Proof? What, no one will believe you when you say you saw him? A memory? Don’t you remember seeing him and don’t your memories of his thousands of games in pinstripes constitute much more meaningful and lasting memories?

I know I’m in the minority here, but I’ve never understood what autographs do for a person. I have a lot of autographs from when I was a kid. Hank Aaron is probably the biggest name. My favorite player from childhood, Alan Trammell, is the one I held most dear when I was younger.  But they don’t do much for me now.

They’re not even great reminders of when I got the actual autograph.  Both were at baseball card shows. Aaron’s was actually kind of depressing: he had all kinds of security around him and was at a high table so you couldn’t even get too close. You had to reach up high and place the card there, someone handed it to him, he signed, and they handed it back. You were instructed not to talk to him.  Trammell’s was not that crazy, but it was still kind of a cattle call.  I certainly get way more jazzed remembering Trammell play and reading about Aaron or watching whatever old footage of him I can find than I do remember “meeting” them.  The autographs are curios. Not much more.

I know those people who wait for Derek Jeter to sign his name feel very strongly about what they’re doing. And I presume they’ll value that autograph, if they’re lucky enough to get it, way more than I value the autographs I have.  I just don’t know why. It’s something I’ve never really been able to understand.

  1. cosanostra71 - Feb 9, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    I just like autographs. No particular reason, I just think they’re cool…

  2. papacrick - Feb 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Does anybody know why there’s no stories this weekend?

  3. bosco66 - Feb 9, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    In 2005 at the only Red Sox playoff game that year held at Fenway, I ran from the Lansdowne Shop into Fenway Park, calling “Mr. King! Mr. King!” I had seen Stephen King, my very favorite author and notoriously huge Sox fan, wearing the same Wakefield jersey I was, entering the park. He stopped and said, “Oh, you’re going to get me in trouble….”, I grabbed the first person passing by and said “Please take our picture!” I told him I was his biggest fan, he told me “I think I wrote a book about you”, smiled, and went on his way, while I floated back to the street to find my husband. He asked if I’d gotten his autograph, and I told him “I can get his autograph on EBay- where else can I get a picture of me WITH him?” The Sox lost that day, but it’s still one of my best trips to Fenway, one I’ll never forget.

    • kalinedrive - Feb 9, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      My two brothers, my sister-in-law and I got together in Lakeland a few years back to see a couple of spring training Tigers games, a home game one day and an Indians game in Winter Haven the next day. After the road game we went to a local steakhouse in Lakeland where we had heard the Tigers players often eat, and we were eating dinner when I looked up and saw Todd Jones walking by our table on his way out.

      He was pretty recognizable with his moustache, although if we hadn’t been in a Tigers hangout in Lakeland I probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought. But as soon as I saw him I said “Hi Todd.” He stopped and talked to us (his wife continued outside), asked us where we were from, and generally chatted with us long enough that I started to feel uncomfortable about keeping him. Heck, I just said “Hi Todd.” He could have waved or said hi and kept going.

      Earlier that same day, at the Indians park in Winter Haven, Bob Feller was signing autographs. He was about 90, but still an active icon for the Indians. None of us wanted to wait in line to get his autograph, but some young guy behind us in the stands came back and told his friends he got “some old guy’s autograph.” We laughed and told him who Bob Feller was.

      • kalinedrive - Feb 9, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        Oops, that wasn’t meant to be a reply to you, bosco. But good story! I have read quite a few Stephen King stories myself.

  4. Corethree - Feb 9, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    I’ve sent cards to jeter. One about 3 or 4 years ago and one a couple years ago, asking for his autograph. I’ve never been able to get to a Yankees game ever. I never got the cards back, never mind the autograph. I’f he offered it now, i wouldn’t want it.

    • badintent - Feb 9, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      “I wouldn’t want it ” You have something in common with Minka Kelly. Get in line, it goes around the block.

  5. rich7041 - Feb 9, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    Back in the late 60’s when I was about 10, my mom took me to see Bobby Clarke, rookie center on the Philadelphia Flyers. He was at a Woolco store about 50 miles outside Philly and I was the only person to show up (besides the photographer from the New Brunswick Home News.) He signed for me, then we proceeded to talk hockey for nearly an hour. The photog grabbed two other shoppers for a quick pic which ran in the paper the next day. It was all very cool & I remember every detail almost 45 years later. Clarke went on to a Hall of Fame career and later became the Flyers’ GM. Being a huge Rangers fan, I always root against the Flyers, but always rooted for Clarke.

    • badintent - Feb 9, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      Clarke is a rat. From day one.Cheap shot punk.My Islanders owned him and his no skills thugs in the 80’s.The idiot even washed his Eric Lindross laundry in the press like the punkass he was as a player. Pathetic POS.

  6. stercuilus65 - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:44 AM

    My most treasured possession is the bible I got off eBay autographed by Jesus…

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