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Autographs

Chances are, as a sports fan, at some time in your life you’ve approached an athlete seeking an autograph. Or, you may have seen the movie “The Sandlot” and are familiar with the fate of the Babe Ruth ball at the mercy of the neighbor’s dog. In either case, autographs can become a cherished keepsake

Chances are, as a sports fan, at some time in your life you’ve approached an athlete seeking an autograph. Or, you may have seen the movie “The Sandlot” and are familiar with the fate of the Babe Ruth ball at the mercy of the neighbor’s dog. In either case, autographs can become a cherished keepsake for the beholder.

Recently, I read a book Tales From the Dugout, which recalled humorous baseball antidotes. The book’s author, Mike Shannon, retold a most memorable tale of autograph-seeking experienced by a Fort Wayne, Indiana man who had inherited a baseball signed by Babe Ruth from his father. The man was a huge New York Yankees fan and set about on a determined mission to add the signatures of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to the Babe Ruth ball.

As Shannon tells the story, the autograph seeker gains an opportunity to get DiMaggio’s autograph at a minor league baseball game. He approached DiMaggio and politely explained what he wanted to do.
“I’d be honored,” said DiMaggio, who took the ball and signed it.

Continuing his mission the man attended spring training in 1988 and spotted Mantle and one of his old cronies sitting around the pool of a Fort Lauderdale hotel. The man approached Mantle and told him of the history of the ball and asked for his signature.

Mantle replied, “Well, I don’t know if I want to be on the same ball as DiMaggio. He was pretty mean to me when I was a rookie you know.” He then broke into a big grin when he saw that he’d successfully pulled the man’s leg. He went ahead and signed the ball.

As the autograph seeker was basking in the satisfaction of completing his mission Mantle’s companion, Billy Martin, grabbed the baseball out of Mantle’s hand and said, “Here, I’ll sign your ball too.” Before the startled man could formulate a polite objection, the deed was done, and he was holding a baseball autographed by Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle and…Billy Martin.

Back home in Indiana, the man found a way to erase Martin’s signature from the ball thoroughly.

This Friday, the Williamsport Crosscutters open their 2018 season with a three-game series against the State College Spikes. On Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, fans taking in the game at Historic Bowman Field will have the opportunity to obtain the autograph of former MLB slugger Jose Canseco who will be on hand. The outspoken former outfielder authored the book Juiced in 2005, which opened the door of awareness regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

Bowman Field prides itself on providing fan-friendly experiences to its patrons, which includes autograph opportunities. Crosscutter’s vice president of marketing, Gabe Sinicropi, took the time to give some autograph ‘dos & don’ts’ for autograph seekers.

“We have two players available for autographs before each game in the main concourse at our autograph booth. Fans that are looking for other players, either the Crosscutters or the visiting team, the best opportunities are during the hour prior to the game outside each of our clubhouses on the first and third base side. We have incredible access to the players. They walk through a small public area to get to and from the field. Before and immediately after the game these two spots are the best places to be for autographs.

“Fans should also be aware that there are a few ‘don’ts’ when seeking autographs. Players and coaches cannot sign autographs during the game. We do get fans that come down near the dugout asking for a ball to be signed. We’ve even had instances when fans try to hand a ball to a player asking them to pass it through the dugout for autographs. That is not permitted. We ask for everyone’s cooperation on that.

“We are also unable to provide autographs on an individual basis. In other words, someone gives an employee a ball and ask them to get a certain player’s autograph. Under these guidelines, there is excellent availability prior to and immediately after the game for fans to get autographs. The Phillies have an overall policy to be fan friendly and to give back to the community. We certainly concur with that and try to give our Crosscutters’ fans a great experience when they come out to a game at Bowman Field.”

Autograph seekers all have their own objectives when it comes to obtaining that prized signature. For those ‘serious’ about the mission, two guidelines to follow — balls become more valuable when 1) they are not personalized to an individual and 2) they are signed on the ‘sweet spot’ of the ball as opposed to a side panel.

Once dubbed as ‘Gateway to the Majors’ many current Major League stars got their early beginnings at Bowman Field. One never knows how cherished that NY-Penn league obtained autograph may someday become.

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