Me, A Beatle and 500 Varieties of Beer
August 24th, 2009 by slangon

The last few days, I’ve had autographs on the brain. I recently decided I wanted to try my luck with a through the mail autograph. I won’t say who it is, since I want to write about it when it hopefully is a success. Literally right after I tracked down the address for said mystery person, I happened to read this.

If you’re too lazy to read it, I’ll sum it up. It’s an op-ed piece written by Hall of Famer and Phillies Great Mike Schmidt. He was basically making the point that many athletes and celebrities in general tend to become guarded when it comes to dishing out their John Hancocks due to the insanity that is the memorabilia market now a days, and because of that, little kids who genuinely just want to meet their idols and have a token of that memory get thrown under the bus in the process.

I can’t says I disagree with him on that point. I do however find it a bit unfair that he seems to put anyone who’s not under 16 years old and innocent of any capitalist thoughts in the same boat. Just because I’m not some little kid who shyly asks you if you can sign his baseball doesn’t mean I’m looking to have you sign 40 copies of your short printed ’09 Topps Parallel so I can turn around and sell them for $30 a pop rather than $3 a pop. I’m just a dude who loves baseball, and appreciates the men who excel at it. I too would like to have some moment of connection to my heroes and get a little momento of that connection.

In thinking about all of this, I looked at how the idea of autograph collecting has changed. What was once an experience has become a commodity. Getting a player’s autograph used to involve going a game and either getting there super early, or staying way late and fighting your way through 100’s of other folks trying to get the same autograph from the same player. When you showed anyone the autograph, you weren’t just showing a ball or a card with a name written on it, you were showing that you met this person. At one point in time, you were interacting with them.

The only autograph I can recall ever getting in person wasn’t even a ball player. In Secaucus New Jersey, there used to be a bar/restaurant called Phil McKonkies. My friends and I used to go there often because they had something like 500 different beers. Anyway, one night it was pretty dead and Ringo Starr happened to be in there. Don’t ask me what the hell he was doing there, but it’s true. There were a lot of convention centers in the area and the bar was in a hotel, so maybe that had something to do with it. Anyway, I got up the nerve to ask for his autograph. I guess thanks to beer, I even asked him to personalize it as “Dear Sean, you’re my favorite Beatle. Ringo Starr”. And he drew a gay little star next to his name. Unfortunately, that was a hundred years ago and I’ve moved 4 or 5 times since then, so I have no idea where that is. I couldn’t have thrown it away I don’t think. I’ll have to hunt it down and post it. It’s pretty funny.

I guess that’s my point. Even though it’s a business card with a little note and signature written by Ringo Starr, what really matters to me is the story and memory behind it.

Which is not to say that I have anything against buying autographed memorabilia, or pulling an autographed card from a pack. I own several photos and cards that I bought already autographed. I get super stoked when I pull an autograph card, even if it’s a player I couldn’t give a flying f&@% about.

I guess what mostly makes me sad is that because of all the money to be made from autographs and memorabilia, I think more and more celebrities and athletes are starting to think like Mike Schmidt, which makes it harder and harder to experience moments like the one at Phil McKonkies. Somehow, being Ringo’s favorite Beatle wouldn’t have been as cool if he made me pay him $5 for the privilege.

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