This disclaimer is also on my permanent collecting page but in addition to writing about cards I plan to also blog about autographs. For me they’re as tied up with my memories as card collecting is and the two hobbies fed off of each other a lot when I was little. I’d get cards for autograph reasons and I’d be inspired by cards to go get autographs.
While I don’t remember enough specifics about my baseball card collecting beginnings*—aside from going to my first game in 1986, receiving a Hygrade Baseball Card Collecting Kit as a gift**, and then the following spring being into cards and buying rack packs of 1987 Topps—I do remember my first few faltering steps of autograph hunting.
*I’ve kind of touched on it here.
**I’m assuming Christmas.
Those first couple of cards are both personal treasures and a source of embarrassment. I’m thankful I had the opportunity for these baby steps into the hobby and I’m glad that the players weren’t anyone too important or big name to either discourage my future quests or to result in any regrets about not doing things the “correct” way. I’m also a bit embarrassed now at how excited I was to both acquire and then own all of these. And also at how quickly I wanted more more more.
And as a father who may very soon be finding himself watching his sons embark on similar quests, it’s good for me to have these stories written and available or them to read and realize that I was once in their shoes.
I’m pretty sure that Atlee Hammaker was the first autograph I ever got. This must’ve been in 1988. There was an event at the Sunnyvale Community Center where he was scheduled to make an appearance and sign autographs. I remember being at the Giants game that afternoon, having it go into extra innings, and rushing back home to make it to the event on time. Little did it occur to me that, because of the game, Hammaker would also be late.
Boy was he late. We kept watching the same highlights and I feel kind of sorry for the Giants Community Representative* who had to vamp the entire time. But Hammaker eventually arrived and I got my first signature and I was very very happy.
*Who might’ve been Mike Sadek.
Given what I’ve learned since about Hammaker since I’m kind of glad and find it somewhat appropriate that he was my first autograph.
With 1987 Topps being my first complete set as well as the first cards I really purchased or collected in earnest, I’m pretty sure this was my only Atlee Hammaker card at the time. It’s a nice, albeit a bit a generic, headshot. But he’s actually smiling and the lighting is good.
Rick Reuschel was our ace pitcher in 1989. I never think of him as a proper ace but I have to recognize and respect that he did start the All-Star game that year.* Anyway he was scheduled to make an appearance at the Giants Dugout Store in San José so of course I went. As did my mom and my sister. I’m pretty sure that this was yet another baseball thing that we dragged my sister to and she patiently put up with waiting in line for what must’ve felt like forever.
*What is it with Giants pitchers in All Star games and monster home runs?
I had brought two cards with me. The 1986 Topps was one of my oldest cards at the time and 1988 Score was one which I just loved the look of. We were only allowed one autograph each. I think my mom took one card and I took the other.
Since I did not trust my sister not to “keep” the card if I gave it to her—it’s not like she collected autographs it’s just one of those sibling things. So my mom purchased one of those souvenir Giants-branded baseballs for her. For a while it just had Reuschel’s signature on it but we eventually filled it up* and she eventually decided that she didn’t want it.
*This deserves, and will get, a post of its own.
The Stanford Alumni Game used to be the first weekend of the baseball season and officially marked when baseball began in general. That this was usually in the end of January ended up spoiling me tremendously in terms of when I could expect to go to a game. Many Stanford players in the pros would return to campus and play an exhibition against that year’s Stanford team. And there would often be an old timer’s game as well.
While I eventually ended up treating this as a major autograph extravaganza, the first time I went I only brought one card. I only knew of one Stanford Alumnus and it’s only because he played for the Giants. So, as with Atlee Hammaker I brought the only card I had, a 1987 Topps.
No one had told me about Sharpies yet so I just borrowed a pen from my dad. Whoops. It’s held up okay and there’s a certain charm about it which makes it looks like an autographed card from a much earlier age. And while I eventually got another copy signed I could never bear to part with this one. It’s the first autograph I got where I had to approach a player and ask for him to sign all on my own. And that’s a milestone of its own which is worth remembering.