I am a big baseball fan, and over my lifetime, I have acquired number of pieces of memorabilia, mostly baseball cards from when I was younger. However, one or two pieces have some worth. About two months ago, I started to expand my collection a bit here and a bit there. I also took some of my items to get authenticated through a company that does such things. At some point, I likely need to get this listed on my homeowners insurance, as some research leads me to believe that, collectively, my collection might have a small but non-zero value.
As a part of my interaction with the authentication company, I got an invitation to a memorabilia and autograph show at the Donald E Stevens and Organized Crime Convention Center in Rosemont. I had never been to one, so I decided I would go.
Door fee and parking: $23 (mostly parking)
The Donald E Stevens center is a huge convention center hooked by a long walkway to the parking garage which is across the street and behind a row of hotels. After I paid my entrance fee, I was greeted with row after row of dealers hawking their wares … pictures, helmets, cards, jerseys, hats, programs, baseballs, footballs, hockey pucks … you name it. I was very, VERY glad I left my money at home. Some things would have been nice on the wall at home.
I had decided to be judicious and only sign up for three autographs. Bob Turley won the 1958 Cy Young Award (the third one ever given out), and was a member of two Yankees World Series champions with Berra, Mantle, and Whitey Ford). His autograph was a mere $20. I also signed up to get autographs from Don Sutton and Steve Calrton. Both of these pitchers are in the Hall of Fame, with Carlton being particularly notable.
After buying your ticket, you waited in line to get your autograph, but before that, you actually have to have something to autograph, so I wandered around the dealer stands to find something. I was able to find some relatively inexpensive pictures of three pitchers for $4 each. After that, I was off to stand in line. Bob Turley is an older man now … far from the days of his prime when he pitched with the Yankees at the end of their golden era. Nonetheless, when I stood before him, he noted my White Sox jacket and said to me that he had met with the White Sox owners two weeks ago, and that he had fond memories of playing the great White Sox teams of that time period (the White Sox were great then, but only in 1959 did they ever best the Yankees to go to the World Series). It was a nice moment, and I thanked him for signing my picture.
I then stood in a long line to meet Steve Carlton. As a boy growing up, Carlton was revered as one of the greatest pitchers of his or any era … won the Cy Young Award four times, and is still the last NL pitcher to win 25 or more games in a season. While I was waiting , I struck up a conversation with another guy, and we exchanged baseball stories. When I finally got up to meet him, he was friendly, if not a little curt (I would never blame him), I kindly asked him to add “4 times Cy Young” to his signature. He asked if I would prefer the years, and I replied that I would be grateful, and he did. I thanked him, and went on my way.
While I was waiting in line, an announcement came over that Don Sutton was going to cancel for the evening … so I had to go back to the window and get a refund (it was a lot like cashing in a ticket at the horse track).
I went looking for a baseball holder for one of my new acquisitions at home, and found, in the corner, a booth for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which featured Bill Buckner signing autographs for a $20 donation.
Not being a Cubs fan, I shouldn’t be a Bill Buckner fan, but I am. He was a great player who sadly will be remembered by most people for a rare moment of disaster that occurred in the 1986 World Series. However, I also remember a day back in about 1981 or so … my elementary school was hosting a father-son banquet, and Bill Buckner was scheduled to appear and speak. Except from far away, I had never met a Major League player before, so it was a big deal. It turns out the day of the banquet, something unexpected happens:
The Cubs get into an epic slugfest with the visiting Phillies … after nine innings, the score was 22-22, with the Phillies winning it in the tenth inning, 23-22 … Buckner was not at fault: 4–for-7, 2 runs, and 7 RBI was great even for him. Despite the game ending after 5 pm, and having to answer to the press, he got in his car and drove all the way down to the southwest suburbs. He got there late, wolfed down some cold chicken, and then had some great stories for the fans.
While I was there, a woman and her little son came up and purchased a picture for him to autograph. I told him that story, and she and her son sat there enraptured as I told it. When I was through, he was done signing, shook my hand, and thanked me for making his day. I was glad I finally got to thank him for a nice moment way back when.
Needless to say, I came away with some interesting impressions.
1. I couldn’t help but feel bad in some regards for these guys … they sit at a table for a few hours as people come by and shove a picture, a ball, a bat in front of them, and they sign it. Writer’s cramp must be a problem with these guys. While they are doing it, people are snapping pictures, and striking up conversations about “Remember the time you faced George Brett in the 1980 Series …”, and from what I could tell, they genuinely tried to respond without being a jerk. Yet, I could not help that except for the fact that they were being paid, they were in so many ways like circus animals. I kind of felt bad.
2. I was shocked at how many people >>never<< said “thank you”. Yes, it is a business transaction at its core, but at the same time, when you buy something at the store and complete a deal, you still thank the gal/guy who helped you. Even though I paid for the privilege of briefly meeting these guys, and getting their signature, I still felt a sense of gratitude.
3. Some of the people waiting in line for autographs bought a lot of tickets, and had a lot f things to be signed … these people are dealers, and are going to have these things on the internet by tomorrow … but most of the people were genuine fans who were getting to meet a part of their childhood. One of the guys had a large poster with the actual Cy Young award on it. While waiting in line, I noted that he had 34 signatures of prior winners, and that night had added Bob Turley, and was about to add Steve Calrton (the theme for the night was “Cy Young winners … Dennis McLain had cancelled along with Don Sutton, but Gaylord Perry, Mike Scott, and LaMarr Hoyt were there. One vendor approached him for a price quote, but the guy said it was not for sale; “this is for me”.
3. Though autograph collecting has gotten to be a bigger business than it was years and years ago, I was glad to see quite a few kids there with mom and dad. I’m not sure how many kids would know these guys, but maybe that was the point.
4. After signing a couple of hundred autographs, you would figure that your and gets tired, and maybe after a while, you just don’t care … I have seen this. I was impressed that all three of the guys who signed for me did nothing of the sort … their signatures were made slowly, neatly … Carlton even took an extra moment to examine the picture to place the autograph against part of a light colored backdrop so the signature would stand out.
So, in conclusion, I added three new autographed photos to my collection, got to meet three great ball players, one of whom is a legend … not bad for a Friday night!