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“The vast majority of Hall Fame autographs are forged”

Jun 30, 2014, 11:33 AM EST

New York Yankees' Rodriguez signs autographs for a fan after reporting to the Yankees' minor league baseball complex in Tampa

I used to know a lot of people in the memorabilia business. A lot of them were crooked, a lot of them weren’t. But no matter who they were, they all agreed on one rule: if you didn’t see the guy signing the autograph, assume it’s a phony.

That rule seems even more useful after reading David Seideman’s article about autographs at Forbes, in which he speaks to an expert who wrote a book on autographs and believes that upwards of 90% of all Hall of Famer autographs are forged:

Fakes have many fathers. “The grim reality is that some of the greatest players treated the requests for autographs as a nuisance and had clubhouse boys and others sign them,” writes former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent in the book’s Foreword. These “clubhouse” creations, like my Dodgers ball, appear on team-signed baseballs. Examine the “flow of the ink,” Keurajian explains. Rather than the “rapid flow found in genuine signatures,” autographs done by the same hand show a “labored appearance [where] the thickness of ink will be wide and uniform.”  In addition, a real team-signed baseball should have “ink strokes of various thickness, some thin, some fat, some in between as each person signed differently.”  Plus, the signatures usually overlap.

I have always had a complicated and fairly unpopular relationship with baseball autographs. It’s bolstered even more by stuff like this.

 

  1. Matthew Pouliot - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Impossible. Players in the olden days were pure, played only for the love of the game and, when they weren’t signing autographs, spent most of their free time rescuing sick children from burning buildings.

    • Rich Stowe - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      and hitting home runs for sick kids in hospitals…without flipping the bat or jogging slowly around the bases…

  2. SocraticGadfly - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I have an authentic, un-Photoshopped pic of Lou Gehrig flipping a bat.

  3. sdelmonte - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    This was premise of a Dilbert strip a long time ago. Like in the 90s. When Dilbert was still funny.

  4. hojo20 - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Easy to believe all the fake that are out there. Greg Maddux signed for me, and then handed me the baseball. If I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was his real autograph it’s so illegible.

  5. tfbuckfutter - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    I own the baseball that was chewed up by The Beast in The Sandlot.

    Seriously. Just because the teeth marks look like chihuahua teeth marks doesn’t mean I’m lying.

    Open bid: $40,000

    • carpi2 - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      A value at double the price!

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      darn… I would have paid $39,999

    • DJ MC - Jun 30, 2014 at 9:06 PM

      Why would I want that? It was just signed by some women named Baby.

  6. dowhatifeellike - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    I still don’t understand why autographs are so desirable in the first place. You have proof that a player touched the item: big flippin’ deal. I’ll take a handshake over a signature any day.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      It’s a piece of memorabilia that will, most likely, last longer than the individual who signs it will.

      Once the person is dead it automatically becomes a rarity.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      Also….couldn’t you say the same about a painting?

      “Why pay $35,000,000 for that painting when I can get a print of it for $6? Just because some famous guy touched it?”

      • stex52 - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        Well, actually, tbuck, I kind of buy that argument about the art work, too.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      I’ve got one authentic.

      It’s of the Wiz … and not a bat, the front page of the Post-Dispatch with him making one of his patented plays in the hole.

      My brother worked at the time at Ozzie’s bank, saw him that day, had a few spare copies of the paper, and voila!

      ===

      Actually, I have two authentics.

      The other’s non-sports; it’s Harrison Schmitt’s signature on an 8×10 glossy of Apollo 17. And, while I’m a sports fan, I know which one’s really more valuable.

      • umrguy42 - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:27 PM

        That second one reminds me of a Pawn Stars episode where a 20-something guy brings in like a print of a NASA Gemini launch (or the rocket on the pad, or something), signed by I think *all* the members of the Gemini program. His grandfather worked for like General Dynamics or somebody, and got it as part of his work in whichever part they did. The guy sold it for a couple grand. I was totally all, “man, for that low, and with that amount of coolness, I’d just keep it and pass it down!”.

        But then again, I like space, and space geekery.

    • beefytrout - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      because most of the time the player doesn’t really want to touch you.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        yep, I can’t WAIT for ASlime to touch me… Madonna? Are you kidding me?

        I HOPE he has a ball boy sign it for him and he NEVER did touch it…

    • yahmule - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      Why is a handshake so desirable? Just because some person is a celebrity? Why do you care about them anyway? Why does anybody have hobbies different from my hobbies? I better subtly denigrate them for it.

      • dowhatifeellike - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        I value treating people like people, that’s all. The handshake itself is unimportant, but it’s preferable to a name scribbled on a baseball.

        These guys go weeks at a time without normal human interaction outside of their social circles. I try to be good to everyone I meet. If I can make a celebrity feel like a normal person for just 2 minutes, both of us can walk away feeling good about it.

      • yahmule - Jun 30, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        Not trying to be confrontational here, but what makes you think any random celebrity wants a handshake? Are you making them feel like a normal person by initiating a conversation and shaking their hand? You don’t treat every person you encounter that way. The second you acknowledge that you know who they are, its no longer a normal human interaction. For you it might feel that way, but to the individual, they’re still making a concession (in this case their time and privacy) to their fame and whatever responsibility they feel to the public.

        I also think baseball players – even very good ones – can go unnoticed by huge portions of the general public. After all, not everybody is a baseball fan. Most of the people on this board would recognize an All Star baseball player on the street, or would they?

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        My hand is more valuable if a famous person touches it.

      • randygnyc - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        A few weeks ago, while walking on Park avenue and 61st street in manhattan, I spied a tall, lanky looking fellow who I immediately recognized. It was Cole Hammels. I don’t particularly like him as a player, but even if I did, I wouldn’t have bothered him outside a baseball setting. The closest I’ve come was waiting, with dozens of other people (as I mentioned down thread) to help my daughter get an autograph at a team hotel as they all departed for the stadium. I’ve run into MANY famous people after living in NYC for 25 years. I just don’t bother them. With one glaring exception. About 10 years ago (maybe 15?), near my office I ran into Robert Plant, who was in town during a led zeppelin reunion. I quickly dialed my wife, while approaching him, and made him say hello to her. He was with a much younger gal and they both seemed to get a kick out it. I thanked him and let him go on his way. Had it been for myself, I’d never bother anyone.

  7. gosport474 - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    I guess I never quite understood the mind of the autograph hound. A few years ago we were in Cincinnati at Christmas time. We got on the same parking garage elevator as Marty Brennaman. I said hello to him, did a little small talk and then we wished each other well as we went separate ways. A few minutes later, my 7 year old son said, ‘Dad, we should have gotten his autograph.’ And I told him that we didn’t need one, we had the short but nice experience of just talking to him and that was good enough.

    • tfbuckfutter - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Yeah, but if I find him alone dead in a hotel room I’m still taking his watch.

  8. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    You mean my Muckey Mantle ball is worthless????

    • deepflakes - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      I bought an autographed Mick photo right after he died. It looked like a 12 year old girl signed it. But I got it out of a big ad in USA Today and it had a certificate of authenticity! I felt like an idiot when it arrived in the mail.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        Maybe the Mick signed it back in his drinking days on a bar counter.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      just 9 out of 10 of them…

      good luck finding the ONE…

  9. jrob23 - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Getting autographs from sports, music, or movie stars never made much sense to me. I understand having idols and people you look up to and want to be like, but getting their signature takes it to a a stalker like level. These are just people who happen to be very good at something and might and often times are horrible human beings outside of that one thing they are good at. Maybe for a child it might make more sense but adults doing this, most likely strictly for collectability is just kinda sad.

    • yahmule - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      ” I understand having idols and people you look up to and want to be like, but getting their signature takes it to a a stalker like level.”

      Who upvoted this inane stupidity?

  10. beavertonsteve - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    The real collectible stuff is far outside of my price range. That stuff doesn’t even need an autograph. I’d love to have a bat or ball from a historic game or a player’s jersey from a no hitter and soemthing like that, but unfortunately I have to make a house payment each month.

  11. neelymessier - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    It gets worse. Several years back I read a story about the last out in Don Larsen’s perfect game. He brought a picture to Don right after the game. Don put a personal last out message and signed. Years later the player was struggling for money and sold it. He always regretted it. So one year his wife had saved and saved to get it back for him.

    When he looked at it he knew right away it wasn’t the one he sold, a big piece of baseball history, but it did was the same photo and had the same enscription.

    Doing more research they discovered Don Larsen was paid to participate in this “unique piece of baseball history” scam and had signed dozens exactly the same way, as if addressed to the last out in a perfect WS game.

  12. Mark Armour - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    I have a lot of autographed photos that I either sent away for as a kid (40-45 years ago), or got later at card shows. However, the vast majority of them are from people like Don Lock or Joe Lahoud. I would think that there is less incentive to forge a Don Lock autograph and that I might be on safer ground. But who knows?

  13. Mark Armour - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    I went to a book signing in Boston for Hank Aaron when his book came out (1990?). The store made an announcement that, due to the length of the line, Hank would not be able to personalize the autographs. When I got up to the front, I asked if I could shake his hand and managed a couple of minutes of small talk. He seemed genuinely pleased at the break in the monotony, and I came away pleased with him and the experience.

    • davemmm - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      I was in an autograph line for Ernie Banks with a friend of mine. When my friend who was in front of me found out that the poster drawing of Ernie Banks that he wanted autographed was actually Bob Feller I was lucky to be where I was. When my friend went to get something to be autographed I chatted with Mr Banks. I made him smile when I asked him about a flag on the left field foul pole at Wrigley. He beamed when I asked because he said that was how they honored him with his retired number at the stadium.

      Favorite memory of meeting a celebrity by far. One of the nicest guys I have ever met and made me feel special because he was in the moment.

  14. yahmule - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I think any sports fan who looks down on another sports fan for getting an autograph is a hypocrite if they own any kind of sports memorabilia whatsoever. The sneering comments on this thread remind me of those idiots who criticize people for wearing team jerseys because they refuse to wear another man’s name on their back. The self importance over such trivial nonsense just makes me laugh.

  15. lazlosother - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    I have no use for team jerseys with player names on them he typed while wearing his “Lebowski” Urban Achiever T-shirt.

  16. bluburt - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    I have a slightly used Honus Wagner card that was torn to pieces by Miss Young if any of you are interested…

  17. randygnyc - Jun 30, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Two years ago, my then 11 year old daughter forced me to go to the Yankees team hotel in Minneapolis (they stay at the Grand) to get Jeter’s autograph. Sure enough, he signed my daughters #2 Jeter jersey for her. I stood off to the side during the encounter so I could photograph the proceedings. Great memory for her with digital confirmation!!!

  18. NatsLady - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    I have exactly two autographs. One is from a composer who conducted a concert in which I sang. He had an autograph session after the concert and it was pretty clear he excpected a scrum around him so he could sign. Otherwise I would not have bothered.

    I also have a jersey and a ball signed by my favorite player. He signed both and was really nice to me at an autograph session (there were maybe 5 fans total at the entire session which was on a weekday not at the park, in an obscure location). I wear the shirt all the time and people do notice it and say, “Is that XXXX’s autographed shirt.” So it’s definite conversation-starter.

  19. rje49 - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    Thinking back about how my 1962 Dodgers team autographed ball looked, I guess I shouldn’t regret selling it like I did about 20 years ago.

  20. jfk69 - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    Very true on most signatures
    A friend of mine used to do card shows. Hand print ,4 by 6 glossy pic of player holding up inky hand and signature of player. Don’t get better than that.
    Ernie Banks,Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus is all I have left

  21. shyts7 - Jul 1, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    While I like to get autographs on rare items to help make them a little more valuable, I till would rather have a picture with the player/movie star/singer than anything else. Whenever you get older, that picture will help bring back more memories than an autograph will.

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