ART OF THE AU­TO­GRAPH

Play­ers’ sig­na­ture lives on long af­ter the boys of sum­mer are gone

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

tears when she saw he spelled her name in­cor­rectly. (He fixed the gaffe.)

Then there’s the artis­tic cre­ation left be­hind by Storen. He was in­spired by the but­ter­fly style in sixth or sev­enth grade, he said, when one of his teach­ers left a sim­i­larly or­nate mark.

Au­to­graph seek­ers tell him fre­quently that his sig­na­ture is among their fa­vorites. It has, in its own way, a fan club; people have told him they were rec­om­mended to ask for his sig­na­ture.

“You just want to have some­thing that looks cool,” Storen said. “I was al­ways a big fan of au­to­graphs, so I just want to make sure if some­body cared about my au­to­graph, it looked kind of cool.”

Au­to­graphs some­times re­flect the per­son­al­i­ties of their de­sign­ers. Cincin­nati Reds rookie Billy Hamil­ton, who stole a record 155 bases in the mi­nor leagues in 2012, jots a B, a pe­riod, and a hy­phen, fol­lowed by an H, a pe­riod, and a hy­phen.

It takes mere sec­onds, and his curves and im­pre­ci­sion leave the ap­pear­ance of mo­tion blur.

“That’s just my base­ball sig­na­ture,” Hamil­ton said, teas­ing that it’s OK to call it ter­ri­ble. “I just do it real quick and get it over with, but I don’t do that when I’m sign­ing [im­por­tant] stuff.”

Nei­ther would Orioles out­fielder Adam Jones, but he has an­other rea­son for leav­ing three loops and a No. 10. Jones fears that, re­gard­less of an ex­ten­sive au­to­graph his­tory, some­one could re-cre­ate his full le­gal sig­na­ture for ne­far­i­ous means.

“Ev­ery­thing’s dif­fer­ent, be­cause nowa­days, with all these cy­ber­crimes go­ing on, they can get your sig­na­tures and buy a Lam­borgh­ini,” Jones said. “You’ve got to pro­tect yourself in this age.”

Me­mento with stay­ing power

In the movie “The Sand­lot,” set in the early 1960s, a group of boys tries to re­cover a ball au­to­graphed by Ruth that ended up in a back­yard pa­trolled by a fe­ro­cious dog. Though Ruth re­tired nearly 30 years be­fore the movie’s set­ting, each of the boys rec­og­nized Ruth’s sig­na­ture and knew his ac­com­plish­ments.

Kille­brew, who died in 2011, would re­cite a sim­i­lar tale when he vis­ited the Min­nesota Twins’ mi­nor league camps. If a child found an au­to­graphed base­ball ly­ing in a dirt lot 20 years from now, how would he know whose sig­na­ture it was?

Rangers re­liever Scott Baker, who, like Span, came up in the Twins’ sys­tem, was struck by Kille­brew’s ques­tion. When he signs, he metic­u­lously crafts his ini­tials, mak­ing sure to cross the T’s in his first name and elon­gate the K in his last name.

“You just never know what im­pact you’re go­ing to have on some­body that’s 8, 9, 10 years old,” Baker said. “I think it’s def­i­nitely ben­e­fi­cial to have a short name.”

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