Throughout baseball’s glorious history there have been many great sluggers. From Babe Ruth to Hack Wilson to Hank Greenberg to Roger Maris. It is the slugger that has given fans some of the most memorable moments in the game’s history.
One of baseball’s greatest home run hitters was Mel Ott, who slammed 511 home runs in a 22-year career that began in 1926. Ott was only 16 when he broke into the big leagues under the managerial genius of one John J. McGraw.
Being a member of the exclusive 500 Home Run Club makes Ott a very desirable signature. Ott signed in a very nice flowing hand. His signature is highly legible and very pleasing to the eye. Though his name is short, a mere six letters, the crisp angles of his hand make for a very hard signature to forge. There are no well-executed Ott forgeries in the market today. Example 1 is an early signature from 1933. It is a nice fountain pen example.
Examples 2-4 are more recent signatures that illustrate Ott’s superb hand. Ott was a willing signer throughout his entire life and today he is a readily available name. Some early examples are signed “Melvin Ott” but these are uncommon. The supply of Ott material is strong and he can be found on album pages, team-signed baseballs, scorecards and government postcards. Single-signed baseballs, Hall of Fame plaque cards, and 8-by-10 photographs are scarce but should not be considered rare. Only typed and autographed letters and bank checks are rare.
Ott-signed balls exist in quantities at least when it comes to Giant’s team balls. There is a large supply of 1940’s team balls in the market with a good deal of stunning examples available for purchase. Single-signed baseballs are very scarce but do exist. Most were signed in the 1950s when Ott was a broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers. Ott signed balls on both the sweet spot and the side panel. Single-signed examples from the 1930s, what few there are, are typically signed on the side panel. A word of caution though: many Mel Ott singles are forged and it goes without saying that most in the market today are fake.
Several years ago forged Ott singles hit the market. These forgeries are on “Reach Official League” balls. The balls are in excellent condition. They are clean and are a very lightly toned cream color. These balls are signed in jet-black fountain pen and the signatures are all placed on the top part of the side panel just under the sweet spot stitching. These balls have been floating around for years and most have been certified as genuine by the major authentication companies. The forgeries are not bad but do evidence a slight amount of hesitation in the ink strokes. The evidence that exists is very slight so careful examination is needed.
Letters are another area where the forgers have struck. In general, Ott letters are considered rare both in handwritten and typed form. Handwritten letters have been a favorite for at least one forger. I have seen many nice full-page letters purportedly in Ott’s hand but the handwriting is slightly off. The angle of the hand is slanted more to the right than the genuine article and many of these fake letters are accomplished in green fountain pen. The quality of the forgeries are not bad, but I would not classify them as “well executed.” I think what is fooling most people is the rapid nature of the handwriting, which is nice and flowing.
Ott’s life was cut short in a grisly auto accident in his home state of Louisiana. He died on Nov. 21 1958, at the age of 49. Since Ott never reached old age, his hand evidences no infirmity whatsoever. If you run across an Ott signature that appears labored or shaky it should be considered suspect and avoided.
One final word on Ott forgeries. In the past I have run across pieces signed by the three early 500 home run men: Ruth, Ott, and Jimmie Foxx. I have seen several on album pages and balls. I have never seen a genuine item signed by just these three men. If you run across an Ott/Ruth/Foxx signed combination item proceed with extreme caution.
As to a price guide, I value Ott as follows: A signature will sell for $275-$300 with government postcards starting at $600. A typed letter signed will run about $750 to $850, with handwritten letters nearly double that amount. A nice signed 8-by-10 will sell in the $1,250-$1,500 range. A single-signed baseball is a true treasure and will start at about $5,000.
Signed Hall of Fame plaque cards are available and run about $800, though most in the market are forged. Checks are very rare but a few exist. Mrs. Ott would hand out signatures of Mel that she would clip off a check. On very rare occasions she would send out a full check, I am guessing a starting price of $5,000.
Mel Ott was an early home run champion and today his membership in the 500 Home Run Club ensures the desirability of his signature.