Mike Schmidt, Meet the Kettle

Mike Schmidt at an autograph signing

A few weeks ago, I met former Phillies catcher Bob Boone at a Bucks County sports card show.  I was at the show to have him sign the 1976 team ball that I have been working on over the past few years.  Sure, Boonie signs through the mail, but part of the fun in collecting signatures for this project is talking to the guys and asking them about one of the greatest teams in Phillies history.   

Boone is known for having a very clear and recognizable signature.  It is very consistent no matter what  media-type he is asked to sign, free or paid.  That day he took the ball, and as many of his former teammates have done before him, he rolled it on his fingertips to see who else had signed.  After taking it in, he looked up at me and said, "Isn't it great?  All of us write our names so people can read them!".  Flash forward a month and another member of the 1976 NL Eastern Division Champions is lamenting the dying art of signing legibly. 

Mike Schmidt has never been shy about providing an opinion - which is why I was not surprised to see his op-ed piece for the Associated Press today.  In the editorial, Schmidt took today's athletes to task for handing out "scribbles" to fans as opposed the "neat" autograph he provides.  He went on to state that a legible signature "shows respect and looks as though I put some effort into the process of creating a collectible item."  In most cases, I would agree would his assessment.  When you pay full price, he does make a pretty nice looking autograph.  Heck, I even saw him sign two pieces at once at a Philly Show appearance last year (both, equally nice).
My contention with Schmidt in this case is with his derogatory use of the term "scribbles".  That is because a few years ago he victimized me with one of his famously bad, free autographs.  Trust me, I get the point that there are a lot of people who stop him daily and want him to sign something with the idea they have obtained something valuable.  But, his disregard for the 1984 team ball that I had painstakingly collected since the 1980s was shocking and disappointing.  Though I have come to accept the imperfect ball and see the situation as a storytelling opportunity, to me, at that moment, having the Schmidt scribble ruined the ball, and the experience of collecting those other 20 autographs.  

I don't have a problem with Schmidt trying to drive home a point to the next generation of Hall of Famers - or even for not signing free autographs.  But when he does talk about his autographing habits, I would like him to be honest and admit that he is just as bad as everyone else when he scribbles his mark.

Mike Schmidt's scribbled name