I still fondly recall (in most cases) obtaining autographs as a kid at Tiger Stadium. I would occasionally get them from Tiger players as they walked from the locker room to the player parking lot or from opposing players as they stepped onto their bus on Michigan Avenue. This is of course when players were much more accessible and before they charged money for autographs at a memorabilia show.
What the allure was I still am not sure, but perhaps it was just an excuse to get closer to the players even if it was for all of 15 seconds. Some of course were bothered by it and would blow you off while others were gracious and friendly.
I remember ’68 Tiger pitcher Joe Sparma saying to me ‘‘now why would you want my autograph?’ and then walking right past me. But then there was George Kell who I saw walking in the concourse who could not have been nicer, just as you would expect.
Rocky Colavito had a reputation for signing for the kids after every game, home or away and I asked him about it in a recent interview.
“As a kid I would try to get autographs outside of Yankee Stadium and I remembered not only how bad I felt when a player wouldn’t sign for me but also the time I didn’t want to wash my hair after Charlie Keller patted me on the head,” he says. “My wife knew I wouldn’t be home until a couple of hours after the game because I would tell the kids to line up in a straight line, not to take cuts or push and that I would sign for all of them.”
I remember hearing a story of a kid who asked Alan Trammell to sign an autograph outside of the ballpark but the pen had run out of ink. Alan told the upset fan to hold on as he went back inside the stadium to retrieve a pen. Alan of course has class and remembered what it was like hanging outside of the San Diego stadium to get autographs.
I don’t collect autographs anymore but I have seen the so called signatures of some of the Red Wing and Tiger players. If not for their jersey number that they sometimes put next to their “mark” you simply can’t read the writing. When they are that sloppy, I don’t know why they even bother to sign. It would be nice if they showed some more respect to the fans who pay their multimillion dollar salaries and who now in most cases pay big bucks for their autographs.
Maybe they should take a page from Tiger Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer, another gentleman with class who painstakingly took the time to carefully sign his name. The Mechanical Man had the most beautiful signature I have seen, even up until his death at age 89.