Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Challenge of Fenway

Once upon a time, the Red Sox players signed many, many autographs at Fenway Park.  Through 2003 and in 2005 the Red Sox were pretty accessible, both outside and inside the park, as well as before and after games.  This aspect of visiting Fenway was a huge part of my experience.  That is no longer the case.  Your chances of winning a big lottery are better than receiving an autograph from a current Red Sox player at Fenway Park.  This is not to say they don't sign, but it is so rare, that I don't even waste my time on their side of the field. 

Therefore, if I want to have any chance of getting an autograph at Fenway I focus all my attention on the visiting team.  This is by no means easy, thanks to Fenway operations management, but it's not impossible. Last week I was able to get a good quality autograph from David Price, pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  The more recent challenges Fenway management has implemented is that you can no longer lean into the dugout to attempt to get an autograph on the homeplate side of the field, unless you have a ticket for those seats.  (Did they get idea from Yankee Stadium?  I thought the Red Sox were better than that.)  The wall from home plate to the dugout is blocked by the VIP area.  Therefore, players will almost never come over and sign for the non VIP's.  The left wall is almost completely blocked by grounds crew tractors and supplies. 

So where do you go?
1.  I've had luck right behind the visitor dugout, just where the players walk up the stairs to enter the field.  You need to get there early to get a good spot and do your best to physically keep it.  The challenge with this is that it is hard to toss items across the top of the dugout, especially for kids.

Visitor Dugout: Side where the players enter the field.
2.  The area just to the left of the visitor dugout camera well.  This is where I got David Price to sign for me.  This is another small space, so you must work hard to keep your spot.
Area by photographer/camera well to the left of visitor dugout, usually good for autographs.

Corner of wall behind 3rd base, heading out to left field.  Good spot for visiting pitcher autographs.
3.  The area of the wall behind 3rd base where it stops and turns to left field.  There is usually plenty of room here for about 20 people.  This is a popular spot for visiting pitchers to sign as they usually warm up or play catch right at this corner on the field. 

So good luck and have your items ready.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Think Outside the Box

Yes, I have many regular signed items, such as mini-helmets, photos and plenty of baseballs.  The easiest explanation for this is that these items are easy to carry, at shows they are the cheapest to have signed and most importantly athletes/celebrities are accustomed to signing these everyday collector items.

However, I have found that if you can diversify your collection with some unique or rare items, not only does that add value to your collection, it will usually generate a conversation with the athlete/celebrity and you will have a more memorable interaction with that person.

Some simple, but sometimes expensive ideas are game used items such as bases, stadium seats, and stadium seat backs.  There just aren't many of these around and these items have just become accessible to the regular fan, such as me. 

Fenway Seat Back signed by Hall of Famers, Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk.
There are some other unique items that many of us never think of.  For instance collectible toy team trucks are usually numbered to 1500.  Bobblehead dolls given out by minor league teams usually only have 500-1500 available on a particular night.  Seeing that very few people will ever get them signed, they become a unique and rare item in a collection.

David Ortiz autographed collectible truck.

Bret Saberhagen autographed bobblehead, less than 1700 of these items were produced.
When I'm asked what some of my favorite items are in my collections I always show those individuals my Bill Clinton signed flyer from 1992, my baseball lineup cards from different dugouts and my 2004 world series headline collage.  All of these items are great conversation starters, they are rare and most importantly they are all one of a kind and will not be reproduced.

Bill and Hillary Clinton autographed fliers from their respective presidential campaigns.

2005 Portland SeaDog line up card from a game in May.  Autographed by current stars such as Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and others.
So before you are ready to get that 8x10 or mini helmet signed, see what else you can find, think outside the box, and add value to your experience and collection. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Rankings Are Out.

One of my favorite aspects of collecting autographs is having the inevitable conversation with a stranger in a line or at an sporting event about who signs and who doesn't.  Who is rude and polite?  Who signs a great autograph and who scribbles.  I probably have this conversation about 40 times a year and I always learn something new about an athlete or celebrity and their signing habits.

With that said, I thought it was time for me to release my rankings of such topics.  As I've said before, all my autograph experiences have an individual story.  So these rankings are from my own experience and my own observations.  All of these experiences occurred at a sport venue or an athlete's workplace.

I have 7 categories that I will list.  The first player listed is the best or worst of that respective list.  Everyone after that is listed in no particular order.

Category #1:  I have always witnessed these retired players sign autographs when requested.  In my opinion, you couldn't have even tried to miss these players signing.
Johnny Pesky
Nomar Garciaparra
Dwight Evans
Rick Dempsey
Phil Niekro
Luis Tiant
Rafael Palmeiro
Kevin Millar
Bill Mueller
Bob Feller

Category #2:  I have always witnessed these current players sign autographs when requested.  In my opinion, you couldn't have even tried to miss these players signing.
Vernon Wells
Josh Hamilton
Roy Halladay
Carlos Gonzales
Chris Carpenter
Jack Wilson
Matt Holliday
Bronson Arroyo
Chipper Jones
David Murphy
Eric Hinske
Eric Chavez
Todd Helton
Doug Mientkiewicz

Category #3:  These players used to sign all the time and since 2007 I have not seen them sign any items when asked.
Jacoby Ellsbury
Mark Teixeira
Jason Varitek
Alex Rodriguez
Dustin Pedroia
Albert Pujols
Jonathan Papelbon
Hanley Ramirez
Manny Ramirez
David Ortiz

Category #4:  These folks will sign once in a while, and when they choose to take time to sign, they will sign for about 40-50 people.
Mariano Rivera
Pedro Martinez
Frank Thomas
Keith Foulke
Dave Roberts
Joba Chamberlain
Carl Crawford
Aaron Hill
Lyle Overbay
Ubaldo Jimenez

Category #5:  I have never seen these folks sign autographs when requested.  Most of these athletes won't even acknowledge the fans when request signatures.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
Derek Jeter
Roger Clemens
Tim Wakefield
Eddie Murray
Fransicso Rodriguez
David Wells
Andy Pettitte
Randy Johnson

Category #6:  These athletes have the best quality autographs.  Every letter is spelled out and written clearly.
Mariano Rivera
Carl Yastrzemski
Andre Dawson
Dom Dimaggio
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Bobby Richardson
Bill Mazeroski
Gordy Howe
Harmon Killebrew
Rodrigo Lopez
Adam Vinatieri
John Havlicek
Sam Jones

Gordie Howe, Dom Dimaggio, Carl Yastrzemski, Rodrigo Lopez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Andre Dawson signed items.
Category #7:  These folks have the messiest autographs.  Usually have to label the item as soon as it's signed so I don't forget who signed it. 
Pumpsie Green
Rajon Rondo
Manny Ramirez
Robert Parish
Josh Hamilton
Chris Carpenter
Dustin Pedroia
Ryan Kalish
Jonathan Papelbon

Manny Ramirez, Robert Parish, Pumpsie Green, Ryan Kalish and Chris Carpenter signed items.  Can you guess the correct signatures?

If you have a different experience or want to add to these lists please comment below. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wash your hands and Turn out the lights

When I have the opportunity to work with athletes,  one of the questions that commonly arises is how do you display and preserve your autographs?  What do you do to keep the colors and print of the autograph fresh, bold and in tact?  Is there a secret about preservation that we don't know about?

The answer to those questions revolves around a host of answers.  It all depends on the quality of the item being signed, the utensil being used to sign it, the handling of the item, and where and how is it being displayed.   There are just too many theories on preservation to attempt to cover in a blog posting.  You really need to be an expert on sharpie color, ball point pens, paint pens, acid free, matte or glossy paper, and any other material you might have autographed.

I personally, like to have my autographs signed in specific colors for aesthetic reasons, vs. what I think will last longer.  I like hockey pucks and bobblehead dolls signed with gold or silver paint pens, basketballs signed with silver paint pens, baseballs signed with blue ball point pens and photos signed in blue, black or silver sharpies.  While I know some experts would dispute some of that thought process, I say, these are my autographs and I know how I want them to look.  As I said when I started this blog, acquiring the autograph to me is about the experience about meeting the athlete, not selling the items on ebay.

There are items you can purchase to help preserve autographs such as UV protected ball cubes and museum glass for photos.  You can find acid free boxes, frames and other raw materials used to preserve color. However, there are 2 common denominators, in all conversations, that every expert, authenticator or collector will agree on.  1.  Natural light, and artificial light will most definitely have an adverse affect on autographs.  Both will quickly cause items to fade into an unidentifiable object.  Especially any type of light that directly hits an item.  2.  Dirty hands cause long term damage as well.  The oil from your fingers as well the constant handling of an item can cause damage to the signed object.  I've seen smudges, creases and stains form on an item, almost always just from 2 dirty fingers handling the item.  The items can absorb the stain or mark and have long term negative affects.
Derek Lowe no hitter inscribed baseball that sustained light damage.
So my advice, make sure you wash your hands prior to handling an autograph and turn off your lights and pull your shades in the display space.  The less light that interacts with your items, the better the long term preservation.

Curt Schilling signed ball that sustained finger damage.  There are 2 spots on the autograph and inscription that have faded due to the damaged ball.

Curt Schilling signed ball with no light damage on a well handled item.  Notice the good quality compared to the 2007 world series signed ball.
For more information on autograph preservation, you can complete an online search and, guaranteed, you will find a plethora of information on this topic.  I personally like and their ideas on autograph preservation.