Tyler Kepner on the sad state of baseball signatures and how Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew tried to fix the issue:
When young Twins players signed baseballs, Killebrew watched closely, said Tom Kelly, a former manager of the team. If their penmanship did not meet his standards, he corrected them until it did.
“I had a swerve like everybody else — a T and a line, a dot dot, an H and a line, and something like a t,” said Torii Hunter, a veteran outfielder who now plays for Detroit.
But, he added, Killebrew told him a story.
“Think about this: 150 years from now, you’re dead and gone, and kids are playing in a field,” Hunter recalled Killebrew saying. “A kid hits a home run, hits the ball in the weeds — far. They’re looking for the ball, they find it, and it says, ‘T, line, dot dot, H.’ They don’t know who it is. They’re like, ‘Oh, we found another ball to play with,’ because they can’t read it.
“But just rewind that. A kid hits a ball, hits it in the weeds, they’re looking for it, they pick it up and they can read it. It says, ‘T-o-r-i-i H-u-n-t-e-r.’ And they’re like, ‘Wow.’ So they go and look it up and they see this guy was a pretty good player, and they put it on the mantel and cherish it.”
Killebrew said, “You didn’t play this long for somebody to destroy your name,” Hunter recalled.
I have a few signed baseballs from when I was a kid and the sad truth is that I can’t read the names, nor can I remember who signed what. So essentially, I just have some baseballs with pen ink on them.