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

Mar 29, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT

Martin Perez AP AP

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.

  1. philsieg - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    I have Harmon Killebrew’s autograph on a Chattanooga Lookouts team ball from 1957 (which I bought at Engel Stadium with my allowance). It’s a little faded, but it’s the spitting image of the photo in the story.

  2. 13arod - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    the past 20 years in school they have been teaching cursive less and less every year i really never Leander cursive since teachers dont teach it that much anymore

    • abaird2012 - Mar 30, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      That’s not the only thing you didn’t learn.

    • titknocker - Mar 30, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      Looks like you were absent the day they taught spelling and basic grammar too.

  3. willclarkgameface - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Before you know it the autograph that we all used to seek as youngsters will be replaced by a text message or something else digital. Do players even know how to use a pen anymore? I’ll say right here right now that I don’t write ANYTHING anymore. It’s all about the digi-signature baby.

  4. thetoolsofignorance - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Its not shown in the story but here’s the best modern signature on a baseball. Ive got two of The Hawk’s and they both look like this:


  5. Brian Murphy - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    I am privileged to have a ball signed by Mariano Rivera, who has such an elegant signature. He does it right.

  6. chiadam - Mar 29, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    The jewel of any memorabilia collection is a ball signed by your favorite player or players. For me, it’s my Ernie Banks ball.

  7. chiadam - Mar 29, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    And yes, Rivera and the Hawk have beautiful signatures.

  8. stevequinn - Mar 29, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    The best signature I’ve seen is Johnny Bench’s

  9. Professor Fate - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Writing is a vital form of communication, as is speech. The older I get the less I can read other folks handwriting or understand what they are trying to say. And no, it isn’t because I’m an old fart, either. Now get off my damn lawn!

  10. mikhelb - Mar 30, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    I went to elementary schoolin the early 1980s and I don’t remember that computers played a role as big so as to think everything would be computarized in 5-10 years (1985-1990). The computer “boom” I remember was in the mid 1990s when prices fell and anybody could buy a nice computer for more or less the price of a used car. But still until the late 90s everything in the university I attended was required to be either printed OR made on a typewriter. Until the Y2K happened is when we saw another boom with prices even lower and going towards the mobile computers (laptops/notebooks/palms).

    In the 1980s the only thing we had was Wordstar and surely that wasn’t proliferated enough so as to think that computers would be used for everything (remember there was no internet nor eBooks and homework had to be done by hand with info read from books).

    Maybe I am picky and don’t buy that theory of “we didn’t teach calligraphy because computers were about to rule our daily life”… things have changed a lot, I remember reading a history book from elementary school in California where a lot of recent facts where omitted to avoid saying bad things about the US army killing people in centroamerica (iran-contras and all that stuff trading money for guns with guerrillas and narcotraffickers) nor it was mentioned the thousands of innocent lives lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (nor the concentration camps where asian people were sent to in the US).

    It could that budget restraints caused worse handwriting and partial history to be taught at schools, or to lose ground Vs. the rest of the world in basic education (in geography and maths the US has a set of principles only valid for the US and England, dividing the american continent in three continents whereas the rest of the world recognizes the truth: one single continent; or where a billion is 1000 millions in the US but in the rest of the world 1 billion is 1 million of millions, and of course archaic measures like foot, pound, farenheit, etc.).

  11. howintensive - Mar 31, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    I think that more fans are starting to value pictures with players, instead of the autograph. A photo proves you met the player, instead of buying a signature online.

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