Anatomy of an Autograph

Posted by on May 13 in Baseball Collection, Build Our Ballpark, The Art of the Autograph

This is the third post in the series “The Art of the Autograph.”

I’m writing this post by leaning heavily on my graphic design experience, knowledge of the players and their backgrounds, and vivid imagination to make these observations about autographs. No empirical research, no in-depth study of Graphology, no founding in fact … just personal opinions. With an apology to Otto Preminger for taking liberties with his 1959 movie title: “Anatomy of a Murder.”

Several years ago I began to notice the difference between the beautiful and carefully written signatures of yesteryear’s players and the signatures of many of today’s players. Those of yesteryear: Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Fergie Jenkins, Enos Slaughter – players whose autographs reflected their grade school training in, what I remember as, the Palmer Penmanship method of handwriting. Ovals that flowed into each other, designing letter forms that created a beautiful and readable sentence – an art form apparently not being taught today.

And today’s players: Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Orlando Cabrera, Derrek Lee, J.T. Snow, Nick Swisher, and others; autographs most often given hastily with an attempt to sign for as many people as possible, as the crowds have become overwhelming.

Some have a flair (see Randy Johnson) with a capital initial or the Zorro-like stroke of the pen (see Derrek Lee)…

and many are simply unreadable. I’ve seen fans obtain player’s autographs, look at them, turn and ask “who was that?”

And with a stretch of the imagination, you can see part of the player in his penmanship – the big overhand curve ball thrown by Barry Zito (look at the Z on his signature and you’ll see that 12 to 6 breaking ball of his).

Barry Zito

Look at Ozzie Guillén‘s autograph and hear his staccato-like, undecipherable rant when he’s talking to the Press or chewing out a player.

Ozzie Guillén

Frank Robinson‘s forceful signature,

Frank Robinson

Frank Thomas, “The Big Hurt,” with his long sweeping swing,

Frank Thomas

and Joe Pepitone, his signature reflecting his love of Broadway lights … as I said: “a little imagination.

Joe Pepitone

I will always be grateful, though, to have a player sign a ball for me – whether I can read the signature or not … thanks Miguel Tejada.

Miguel Tejada

Any chance of bringing back the Palmer Penmanship School of Handwriting?