Sign In Please (Legibly)
Posted By: Aaron Sims
I wrote about this in May after the passing of baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, but I feel compelled to write about this again.
Much was made at the time of his death how ironic Harmon Killebrew’s name was. “Harm”…”Killer”…names he was called that didn’t fit the personality of one of the most gentle of gentlemen.
Killebrew had pet peeves, though. One was today's players and autographs. Killebrew was so concerned about fans he practiced signing his autograph, making sure EVERY LETTER WAS LEGIBLE.
When Killebrew appeared at events to sign autographs, he often chastised young athletes. Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer, a long-time Minnesota Twin said, "I did a signing with him on Caravan one year and my signature looked pretty bad.”
“He told me, 'If I see this come through the line one more time I'm walking away and leaving, and the only person these people are going to mad at is you because you're the reason I'm going to leave.' From then on I've tried to make it as legible as I can. Every time I sign an autograph he's in my head, thinking about how it looks.”
Killebrew told Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, another former Twin, “If you play the game this long, make sure people know who you are.”
“I used to sign my autograph with a ‘T’ a line then an ‘H’ and another line – like a doctor,” Hunter said. “He told me, ‘Imagine 50 years from now some kids are playing baseball and they hit a ball into the weeds and they find another ball there. All they see is that scribble-scrabble and they can’t read it. They’re just going to take that ball and hit it around and scuff it up.’
“’Now imagine they find that ball and read T-O-R-I-I H-U-N-T-E-R. They’re going to go and ‘Google’ your name and learn about you and find out what kind of player you were. Maybe they put that ball up on a shelf and 50 years, 100 years from now you’re remembered as a great player. You’re dead and gone but people can still remember you.’
“That stuck with me. Play the game so that people will remember you.”
At a memorial for Killebrew last May at Target Field in Minneapolis, former Brewers star Paul Molitor spoke about Killebrew and his impact. In a light-hearted moment, Molitor said, “Harmon actually liked my autograph.”
This is all a long-winded (or long-inked) way of talking about the current state of autographs. A few weeks ago, the Milwaukee Admirals signed autographs on red pucks to sell for charity. As I watched several players sign, I found myself admonishing them for their poor signatures, much like Killebrew.
I told Scott Valentine, “People want to like you. Let them see your name.”
I was laughed at.
I know my writing and speaking is probably viewed as curmudgeonly and is falling on deaf ears. However, after looking at the signatures from our players, and knowing that nearly every professional sports figure signs in the same fashion, I feel the need to speak up.
I want to be clear that I genuinely like each and every member of the Admirals. Many of the boys on the team have heard where I stand on this topic. Some find it humorous while some don’t consider it at all. That’s fine.
Please, for the love of Harmon Killebrew, sign your name so I know who you are. People want to love you. People want to tell others about you. Don’t leave a doodle as your signature. And just because your number is there, that doesn’t mean we’ll have a better idea.
Readers, your thoughts are welcome. Am I a cranky old man or am I championing a worthwhile cause?
In closing, I’d like to thank Jim Gantner for his great autograph.