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An Unscientific Study About Autographs...

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  • An Unscientific Study About Autographs...

    ...and how they're signed. Have you ever gotten a card back TTM, have an autograph signed in person, or pull one from a pack and then try and read the signature? Without looking, odds are about 50% you did it or 50% just gave up and either marked the card "Signed by [whoever]" or looked at the guy's name printed by the card company. Taking a random card album featuring mostly current players but with some veterans thrown in, I decided to pick out autographs and group them into four categories...

    1) Legible. By just looking at these autographs, you can tell who signed them.

    2) Partly Legible. Some players don't sign their full names or just don't sign them legibly. However, you can clearly read at least one half of their printed signature or, if the player's full name (meaning a first name or nickname and a last name...either the former or latter is missing) is not present, you can read all of it.

    3) Barely legible. Some players can write the first letter of their first name and/or first letter of their last name and then just scribble. However, if pointed to the player's name below, odds are you could recognize it a second time.

    4) Illegible. You can't read this. It's just an incomprehensible squiggle.

    Now, I'm going to group the autographs from the random album in these four groups. I expect it to divide 25%/25%/25%/25%. Let's see how I do...I'll group the autographs by player.

    1) Lew (Signed "Lou") Burdette, Ron Necciai, Duaner Sanchez, Buck Leonard, Tom Seats, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, Bill Schuster, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Zach Jackson, Pat Neshek, Herb Score, Josh Papelbon, Johan Santana, Smead Jolley (Total of 14)

    2) Larry Dierker, Beau Mills, Ross Detwiler, Preston Mattingly, Nathan Vineyard, Josh Vitters, Stu Miller, Ambiorix Burgos, Steve Schmoll, Bill Hall, Cameron Maybin, Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Kyle Sleeth (Total of 14)

    3) Jordan Zimmerman, Steve Register, Cale Iorg, Daniel Bard, Kyle Kendrick, Colby Rasmus, Jason Heyward, Kellen Kulbacki, Billy Wagner, Royce Ring, Brett Sinkbeil, Homer Bailey, Hanley Ramirez, J.P. Arencibia (Total of 14)

    4) Corey Brown, Michael Burgess, Madison Bumgarner, Todd Frazier, Peter Kozma, John Danks, Matt Mangini, Clayton Kershaw, Travis Snider, Nick Hagadone, Ryan Mount, Francisco Pena, John Maine, Jason Vargas, Johnny Whittleman, Matt Lindstrom, Freddy Sanchez, Adam Ottavino, Andy LaRoche, Hideki Okajima, Deolis Guerra, Jeremy Papelbon, Jason Neighborgall (Total of 23 [!])

    Well, with that out of the way, it's interesting to see how this broke down. The players with easily readable and legible signatures were primarily retired. Duaner Sanchez, Zach Jackson, Pet Neshek, Johan Santana, and Josh Papelbon were the only four active players in this group.

    With the exceptions of Larry Dierkier and Stu Miller, all of the "almost but not quite" legible signatures are of current ballplayers. Some are abbreviated. For example, Beau Mills is "B___ Mills." Ross Detwiler is "R. Detwiler." Others, like Nathan Vineyard and Stu Miller, merely really sloppily signed half of their name, but the other half was pretty leigible.

    The "barely legible" group was all current players. The oldest of these was Billy Wagner, who came up in 1994. Reading these guys' autographs a few times, I could tell who they were of and recognize what the player was trying to write. Also, then there were guys like Kyle Kendrick and Royce Ring, who were "K.K." and "R.R." respectively.

    Then there were the illegible scribbles. Hideki Okajima is the oldest of these guys, but he's more used to a different alphabetical system. These generally had one, maybe two legible letters (usually the first letter of the first or last name). John Danks was the only one who I couldn't read a single letter of. Forgive me if I'm pretty boring here, but I find it interesting that the older players have perfectly readable signatures and many current players are almost impossible to read. Maybe they should slow down when signing?
    "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
    -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

  • #2
    Were you listening to Wednesday's Cubs game on WGN Radio? Because Ron Santo was talking about this exact same thing.

    From the autographs in my collection, I'd have to agree with you. Maybe penmanship isn't pressed on kids in school like it used to be. Slightly off topic, but I have a great-great aunt who is naturally left-handed but writes with her right hand. She says in school the teachers used to hit her over the knuckles (no, not a Catholic school...) for writing with her left hand. They told her it was wrong. Her handwriting has always been chicken-scratch.
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    • #3
      Maybe players today sign in ways not representative of their name so it will look "cool." I know Neshek was listed in your legible group, but he does add the laces for a "cool" look. Just a thought... fun to look at one way or another! :applaud:


      • #4
        Here is a perfect example of what I beleive you are talking about.
        Sandberg, a HOF'er, and Bo, a not so HOF'er, have totally different "styles".
        I think the Bo signature is great...Ryne's pretty much a loopy 1/2 attempt.
        Family Autograph Thread


        • #5
          You nailed it. From looking through some more albums, some of the stars of the late 1980's-early 1990's seemed to be the ones that started to get sloppy (with Wade Boggs as a notable exception). The less-than-stars started getting kinda sloppy around the mid-1990's. Some of the 1950's guys though...those guys had model penmanship. Ralph Branca may have the nicest signature I've ever seen.
          "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
          -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

          Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.


          • #6
            My favorite signature also happens to been my favorite player's sig, Cal Ripken Jr. It's cool the way he loops the "J", and it's definitely legible. Just my limited opinion, I don't know much about autographs
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