Showing posts with label Mike Schmidt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mike Schmidt. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt once again speaks out about autographs

Mike Schmidt signed card - Baseball Almanac
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt is back again, complaining about autographs, this time about the awful scrawl of modern athletes. In 2010, we spotlighted a Sports Illustrated article by Schmidt entitled, "The autograph craze is out of whack," where Schmidt takes to task all of those who try to get his autograph in public for free by covert methods.

Schmidt has followed that up with, "Perfect penmanship becoming a thing of the past with autographs," where he calls out modern players for having illegible autographs, and again takes the time to go after collectors who try to get players outside team hotels and other places they frequent. This is coming from someone who purposely signs in a much sloppier fashion the rare times he signs for free in public, to make sure he protects the value of his autograph. One can understand that as a Hall of  Famer, a big asset is your signature, but when you are getting paid tens of thousands of dollars per public appearance, do you really care if a few people somewhere down the line make a few bucks from your signature because they couldn't afford the $75 the promoter is asking at a show?

The quality of modern autographs have seriously deteriorated, as players try to meet the increased demand at games, spring training, etc., but yet a few great examples remain, such as those of Michael Cuddyer, Huston Street, and Pat Neshek. If Schmidt is so concerned about the quality of current signatures, he should take a few players under his wing, just as the late Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew did with Cuddyer, and fellow Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda did with Street. A word from this Hall of Famer might just carry enough weight to make a difference.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mike Schmidt - Autograph Craze Is Out of Whack

Mike Schmidt Signing Autographs Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt weighs in on his take on autographs after the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. How far over the line have autograph seekers gone in their quest to obtain signatures? This is from Sports Illustrated's online website.


For The Associated Press

It was 1970, at the College World Series, where I signed my first autograph. I'll never forget it: Our Ohio University team had just beaten No. 1-ranked USC in game one, and I was asked to sign a ball on the way to our bus.

What a high. Not the victory, but the elevation to celebrity status. Of course, that was back when an autograph was just that - a signature of a person obtained in remembrance of a moment, a place, an exchange that could be cherished for some personal reason. No commercial value was tied to it. No sneaking around security, no stalking, and no fake story or act was involved.

In the early 1960s, my grandparents shared space on a flight to Dayton, Ohio, with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. My grandmom brought me, then in my early teens, all three signatures on business cards. I still have them in a frame. One says "Best Wishes Mike,'' the other "Mike, Best of Luck'' and the other "Mike, Best Wishes Always,'' followed by their names. That's where I got my often-used autograph salutations.

Coincidentally, several months back I did an appearance with Jack Nicklaus and showed him the 45-year-old signatures. He not only agreed they were authentic, but was enamored at the very fact that I had them. He said they must have been obtained on a plane when they were headed to play Firestone in Akron. I won't go into the value he put on them in today's market. The point is, I was an excited kid, the one getting the autograph.

Then at some point back in the late 1970s to early '80s, the sports memorabilia industry came to life and the autograph, as we once knew it, was history. Unfortunate, yes. No longer would young Mikes have a chance to appreciate three business cards signed by three famous golfers in the same way ever again.

Fortunate, yes. Old Mike has made a couple million he never counted on. Companies like Upper Deck sprang up and paid celebrity athletes megabucks for exclusive rights to signatures on products. Dreams Inc. specializes in creating unique sports- and Hollywood-related items designed specifically for signatures of famous people to be mass marketed. There are scads more. None of the product has value without the authentic celebrity signature. I ask, isn't the provider of the value, the signature, entitled to a piece of the profit?

I just returned from Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. It happens every July in the quaint little town in upstate New York. What once was a gathering of baseball fans for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Hall museum and the enshrinement festivities is still that for some.

But for many, it is memorabilia heaven, a chance for vendors to stock up on product, for collectors to expand their collections. And somewhere, lost in the crowd must be little Mike who just wants a memory. That is the sad part of it. Hall of Famers, including me, packed into a house, sitting behind tables selling autographs. Sad. That little guy who, along with his father, had a chance to meet and get an autograph remembrance of the moment spent with his hero, is gone. He'll most likely never again get that experience without paying for it.

The autograph might be the most sought after commodity in today's society. Even the targets want them. Yogi Berra, Gaylord Perry, Bob Feller, me, even Sandy Koufax getting signatures from friends to auction for a charity back at home. When will it end? Never, as long as there are famous people and a demand for the John Hancock.

I'll be perfectly honest, I hate playing the cat-and-mouse game with collectors on the street. It was one of the reasons I retired early. Being targeted and stalked everywhere by people seeking a chicken-scratched slash on an inventory item is not fun. I'm not saying I'm a victim of paparazzi, but when airline luggage handlers wait for you in airports, your right to privacy is gone. When someone jumps out from behind a pillar in a parking lot as you're getting a rental car, you're being stalked. This isn't little Mike and his dad. These guys play games, they dress in costume, they hire little kids with sad faces and pretty girls in skimpy outfits, they make up stories, they lie, they even act polite, anything to get you to sign.

I even had some young adversaries who I came to know by name because we would laugh about the games they play on the streets. It was a friendly contest of who could fool whom. I'd figure out ways to beat them at their own game, by wearing a disguise or taking a secret route to the park.

Sure, there are some who say "I'll never sell this'' and maybe they are serious. But understand one thing - with my signature, sell it or not, that item increased in value from $10 to $100. Someday by someone it will be sold. No more throwing out the old baseball cards found in the attic like my Mom did.

So here's my quandary: I feel sorry for little Mike, he's been squashed in this mess, I can't tell which one he is in the crowd of collectors who all claim to be him. On the other hand, I like that my signature has value, and that I'm paid well just to sign my name. I can't decide whether to sign freely on the street and hope that little Mike is in the crowd, or refuse because most of them are collectors or working for dealers and sign only in a controlled environment, where both sides understand the industry parameters.

Honestly, what has happened is ugly. Our society has become so callous, rude, and motivated by money that even something as American and simple as shaking hands and signing a baseball for a young person can seldom occur today. Who would have thought that back in Omaha in 1970 my excitement over autograph No. 1 would have led to this?