ART OF THE AUTOGRAPH
Players’ signature lives on long after the boys of summer are gone
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.”