Cleveland National a great place to honor Feller

   With our National Convention returning to Cleveland next week, it occurred to me that the five-day extravaganza offers a unique opportunity for our hobby to honor someone who has played an important, though often misunderstood, role in the world of autographs.
   The man who is subjected to a famous hobby aphorism about “the only thing worth more than a Bob Feller signed 8-by-10 photo is an unsigned version” has actually been a significant hobby pioneer, helping to make autograph appearances by current and former stars a mainstay in a hobby dominated by cardboard at the time.
   With Feller being one of the autograph headliners at the National, it would be neat if the show promoters, acting on behalf of the entire hobby, could find a way to honor him in the city where it all began more than 70 years ago. Feller is approaching 89 years old, so even though the National returns to Cleveland in a couple of years, now would seem like the ideal moment for a well-deserved tribute.

   I can remember Feller simply showing up at the Philly Show on the music pier in Ocean City, N.J., in the 1980s, charging three or four dollars for an autograph and just generally serving as an elder statesman and ambassador to the game as he regaled awestruck fans with stories from his career.

   Twenty-five years and a couple of zillion signatures later, Feller’s contribution to our hobby gets largely lost amid the trite jokes about how much he has signed. Yeah, there’s a cogent criticism we ought to level at one of the greatest pitchers of all time: you signed too many autographs, shook too many hands, posed for too many pictures with fans and did it all at prices that ought to make modern ballplayers embarrassed.

   Apparently well on the way to becoming something of a grouchy old man myself, I’m not really bothered by some of the politically incorrect Feller commentary over the years. Besides, you don’t have to agree with everything he’s ever uttered in order to take note of his contributions to the game of baseball in general and our quirky hobby in particular.

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Fiery fate for pile of Bonds cards is reminiscent

   A Chicago area card dealer is organizing a “Barry Bondsfire” that’s designed as a protest against Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid use. Keith McDonough, owner of Bleachers Sports in Winnetka, Ill., has organized a protest that is slated to follow on the heels of the moment when/if Henry Aaron’s all-time home run mark falls to Bonds.

   McDonough, who has operated his store on Chicago’s North Shore for 15 years, has apparently started something when he announced he was going in incinerate his Bonds cards, a provocative announcement that he repeated on ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza” morning talk show last week. “We want to protest it,” McDonough told SCD’s editorial director Brian Earnest in a phone interview. “We’ve got lots and lots of cards. Now we have kids coming in and dropping their Bonds cards in the fire pit, and that’s a kick.”

   In an interesting twist, McDonough said he’s been beseiged by e-mails revealing a startling dichotomy: many collectors have sent in cards and memorabilia to be included in the “Bondsfire,” but an even greater number of Bonds fan have sent a flood of angry e-mails defending the controversial slugger.

   For his part, McDonough is quick to point out the firey symbolism is not personal but merely directed at the alleged steroid use. And he added that he doesn’t sell Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmiero cards in his store, either.

   For me, the interesting part part was that the gesture recalled another bonfire from 26 years ago. The beef back then was against Major League Baseball and the players as stunned fans looked for ways to vent their rage against the most significant labor stoppage in MLB up to that point. A New England dealer, David Carter, reportedly orchestrated the public incineration of 64,000 baseball cards, nearly half of that number coming from Carter himself and reportedly including a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, valued at $1,300.

   At the time the demonstration seemed a bit quixotic, but no more than the current bit of pyromania. If you’re going to quibble, both events seem a little self-defeating, since Bonds presumably doesn’t care if we burn his cards and MLB and its employees also didn’t blink when Carter took a match to The Mick in 1981, but they still seem(ed) liked effective symbolism.

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An expensive Clemens autograph

   I saw a news item in USA Today last week that reported a Japanese reporter had his membership in the Baseball Writers Association of America revoked because he asked Roger Clemens for an autograph.
   I fully understand the principle at work here: journalists need to be doing journalism or thereabouts when they are covering teams and it opens up an ethical can of worms if they start asking for autographs while on the job. Fair enough.
   But in this instance the penalty seemed a bit harsh, especially since the writer, who works for a tabloid newspaper based in Tokyo, apparently didn’t realize he had broken the rules. The story didn’t make it clear just exactly what the implications were from losing his BBWAA credentials, but it’s reasonable to assume it means he can’t cover the Yankees or any other major league ballclub.

   According to the article, Hiroki Homma went up to Clemens with a stack of pictures that had been taken by the newspaper’s photographer; Homma, apparently thinking that the pitcher might like to have them to commemorate his 350th win, offered the stack to the pitcher, and asked Clemens to sign one of the photos for him. A security staffer apparently witnessed it and reported the violation.

   Bummer. Seems harsh, but I understand at that level they would want to make an example if somebody stepped, or even stumbled, over the line.

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4 thoughts on “Cleveland National a great place to honor Feller

  1. Dave on said:

    No doubt about it, Bob Feller is a living legend. His baseball stats are even more impressive when you consider that he went into the Navy for a four year stint at age 23 (and came out a highly decorated war veteran).

    If he refused to sign autographs ever or make appearances, he would probably be commanding $200 per signature nowadays.

    Has there ever been a more accessible Hall of Famer? Will we ever have that type of access to modern time inductees?

    He was the first baseball Hall of Famer autograph I ever obtained in person. As a kid at the time, I vividly remember how big his hands were and how he told a story about throwing a baseball versus a speeding motorcycle to help establish the speed of his pitches.

    It was at that moment when my interest in baseball history was sparked.

    Thanks Mr. Feller.

  2. Phil on said:

    Bob Feller is one of the classiest HOF’ers out there. Yes, he has signed 10 zillion autographs, but the guy is all about the game, one of the greatest ambassadors the game will ever have and should be recognized in Cleveland. Maybe Rickey Henderson should talk to Bob and bring his prices down a bit, then again, I won’t hold my breathe.

    As for Keith McDonough, sounds like he is lighting a fire to gain some free publicity for his card shop. I’m sure there are 100 other hobby store owners who are kicking themselves for not coming up with the idea first. This is America, you burn what you want, but please, don’t try to add your principles to the publicity stunt.

    Sounds like the Japanese journalist didn’t know any better, but then again, if he was credentialed with MLB, he had to know. Then again, Clemens’ autograph prices aren’t exactly cheap, and I’m sure Roger was somewhat ticked that a member of the media wanted his autograph for free. Remember, Roger’s salary has been pro-rated over the past few years (being sarcastic T.S.).

    One last thing… I couldn’t help but comment on the Mr. Mint ad/diatribe splashed on the front cover of SCD during the week of the upcoming National in Cleveland. Everybody has their problems and disagreements, no matter what profession you may be, however, if I paid what Mr. Mint paid to have the ad space on the front page of SCD, could I complain about my job or disagreements I may have with an organization?

    T.S., I would love to hear your take on this. Is there anyone else who feels the same way or is it just me? Mr. Mint shouldn’t worry about his customers looking for him at The National, there will be 1,000 other dealers there looking to buy your stuff, and most of them will either give you the same amount or more then Mr. Mint.

    T.S., can you elaborate on Mr. Mint’s problem with The National? From what I gather, he wasn’t given the space directly in front of the entrance? If you are the biggest name in the hobby, the greatest finders of finds, and always pay in cash, your customers will find you. Whether it be in Row G Section 983 or behind the snack stand.

    Great blog this week T.S. Keep them coming.

  3. Phil … Sorry this took so long; I guess I missed it before the National and then got swamped with post-National stuff. Don’t know how much I can add to the "Mr. Mint" controversy. His beef was, essentially, about changes in 2006 at Anaheim concerning VIP and general admission attendance. His beef has enough legitmacy that other dealers voiced a very similar concern at the time, but few others took any kind of a high-profile position on it in part apparently because Rosen was already at the forefront of the debate.
    With the two rhubarbs that developed at the 2006 National in Cleveland and the subsequent Chaper 11 filing by the NSCC, the tangle from a year earlier had trouble getting much traction.

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