In today's hobby a lot of us have commented on how illegible signatures have become. Many current players scribble so fast that the symbols they create seem to ignore the alphabet entirely.
In fact, there are numerous players out there, that if you were to cover the picture that often accompanies their autograph, most collectors would be hard pressed to identify the name.
Whose autograph is this, for example?
No, it's not Milton Bradley.
It is nobody and it is everybody, essentially. By that I mean it is completely abstract so even knowing who it is isn't very satisfying. If you are able to tell me who this is, it is almost certainly because you have seen his auto around before, not because you can actually read the roller coaster mess of ink.
I understand why this happens, to a degree. Everywhere players go they are hounded for autograph requests. You could perhaps justify the above autograph if you received it outside a hotel with a mob of fans surrounding a player.
However when a baseball card company pays a player to sign cards I feel he should slow down just a little bit and make the signature legible. He is paid to fulfill a contract and the expectation is he will at least try to offer something reasonable.
True, some players simply have wacky autographs that can't be helped. A distinctive look that is difficult to read is one thing, but when it is not even possible to decipher a single letter, things have gone too far.
The saddest thing is when you come across a player that once had a nice, clean, visually impressive signature, only to find that he abandoned it in favor of the speed and ease of a sloppy auto.
Milton Bradley had one of the most dramatic changes in signature style that I have ever seen.
Take a look at this 2000 autographed card I have of him:
It's a fine signature and this card is representative of how he was signing in 2000 and 2001 when he was new to the majors.
But by the time the 2002 cards were released, his signature had taken a startling turn for the worse. And by 2004 a once strong auto had morphed into this:
Although it isn't the worst signature I've seen, it is alarmingly different. The only letter I can really make out is the letter B (and maybe an L that mated with a T).
Side by side:
If they weren't both certified you'd have to believe one is a forgery.
It's a bit disheartening that the demands on players results in the extinction of their "real" signatures.
Sure, there are still players out there that take pride in creating a clean autograph, but I would argue that the percentage of players who do so has dwindled consistently with each passing decade.
Have any of you seen a modern day player's auto alter as dramatically as Milton Bradley's did in such a short span of time?
Have you passed on buying certain auto cards because the signature just looked too distant from the player's actual name?
As for the initial mystery auto I showed, here is the card:
Michael Bourn (Gold Glover and NL Stolen Base leader in 2009).
And yes I did buy this card for a dollar. Perhaps that means I am part of the problem as well.
I know you are thinking "Ewwwww, gross. Dumpster diving!"
Well sorta, but not really.
I'm not actually touching a dumpster or sifting through anything in a dumpster. I'm looking for small bookcases or shelving units set next to the dumpster.
It isn't as if I make a habit of this, I just occasionally take a circuitous route to my destination.
You won't see me in a back alley dumpster trying on a bright red Christmas sweater in July.
There is seemingly an inconsistency in me. I have money to buy baseball cards here and there, but don't have money to buy shelving?
The way I see it is buying baseball cards brings me pleasure. Buying shelving is like buying groceries; there's no enjoyment involved. Shelving, like food, is a necessity. But I won't starve to death if I don't find shelving immediately.
People move. They upgrade. They run out of room. And usually they know their shelf thingy is perfectly serviceable so they set it aside instead of heaving it in the dumpster.
There are certain rules I apply which makes finding the right piece very difficult.
First, the shelving unit must be pretty clean. I certainly clean it thoroughly anyway, but it has to look reasonable to begin with. If it's been outside for a week, forget it.
It also must have actual shelves. I am not interested in cobbling together some kind of makeshift system. And the shelves have to be wide enough to accommodate binders, yet the unit can't be so wide that it doesn't fit in my baseball card closet.
See this unit here is what I most commonly find. I think this had drawers at one point. If this had just one shelf in the middle it would have been perfect (perfect as defined in the universe of assessing garbage).
Another thing is that I don't have a car so the unit has to also be close to my home and fairly light. Fortunately I live in a highly populated area.
This one has a few shelves. The shape made me rule it out.
Oftentimes people feel the stuff they are throwing away is so desirable that they won't even put it out back by their dumpster. Instead they cart it to the sidewalk.
This piece is huge. I couldn't move it even if I wanted to. It's also too long and wide, and of course the drawers/shelves are missing.
After wandering aimlessly I happened upon this potential jackpot.
I wasn't first on the scene though.
Despite this gentleman's wizard look, as I approached it occurred to me he may just be moving. His outfit is not out of the range of how people appear in Seattle. I mean you saw that car. It's a strange city (and I fit right in).
Ah-ha! It IS free stuff.
I have never lived in a city that puts out more stuff marked free than Seattle. I think it's a decent gesture since it takes more effort than just throwing it in the dumpster.
Those are Pioneer speakers. Huge. That green shelf thing is almost a winner, but it's not quite right.
Notice the big white box isn't in this picture?
After we spoke for several minutes (he was cool), the Wizard carted off the whole box. It was full of clothes and cd's.
He did leave behind the small container. Um...that's a Soul Asylum cd. I didn't want any of that junk though. I wanted other junk.
My twenty minute search today didn't net me a new shelving piece.
However there are other options just up this ridiculously steep hill.
There's a store that sells shelving.
This one is $40.
This is just $18 and would be perfect if it is wide enough (I didn't check).
But I have had past success using my free stuff strategy. This one I actually found in front of my building last summer.
I don't remember where I found this shelving unit.
The bottom shelf is cracked and weak so...
I propped it up with baseball cards, of course.
So tell me, should I continue my bizarre search through the city when the mood strikes me, or should I just buy shelving at the store and be done with it?
I need three shelving units I think. I guess ultimately it's not about money so much as some twisted principle (and my hatred of assembling things).
There's no urgency yet since I have a lot of cards to put in binders still.
Would any of you out there consider doing what I did today?
I may be crazy but I'm harmless. I'm good crazy! Honest.
With the baseball season upon us, I will be watching a lot of games. Organizing cards while watching baseball is one of my favorites things to do.
Thank God the season is long because I am heap plenty behind when it comes to putting cards in their proper binders (and even finding a place for some binders), so I may need all 162 games to complete this effort.
I've shown a shot of this before, but as you can see, things have gotten worse, not better.
Some cards have been waiting for me to put them away for two years.
It's sad how I manage to buy more cards without organizing the star cards I already purchased. I can't help it. It's a sickness. I'm ill. It's genetics and you can't fight genetics.
While some would scoff at what I call a star card (you can see there are some 1988 Donruss in that box on the left), I love all my kids, er cards, equally (not really).
So what do Bench and Berra have to do with getting my collection in proper order?
But part of the reason I don't post often is the posts become too involved and take forever.
I am constantly impressed by fellow Bloggers who manage to put things together every day. Night Owl and Collective Troll are particularly amazing in that they not only post daily, but put up creative and lengthy efforts.
I don't have their talent or drive but I do love cards.
So instead of letting my blog die, I decided that as I slowly organize my collection, I'll just scan random cards that catch my eye for whatever reason.
Cards I love, mostly. But also cards that puzzle me or look odd.
All the cards today are just ones I think look amazing. They are my favorite modern cards of Bench and Berra (that I own).
There's not much to say about most of the cards I will come across, but it's just fun to look at cards anyway, right?
Well, I hope it's fun enough that you'll take a look from time to time.