Sports Guru: Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

Autograph June 2010

My $3.99 Magic Johnson autograph is good as gold.

I know I’m dating myself but some of you probably remember the ABC Wide World of Sports TV series intro from the 1970s. The “Thrill of Victory” featured several scenes of cliff diving and boxing. But the “Agony of Defeat” is the scene that sticks out the most for sports fans. It showed that poor bastard flipping head over skis for what seemed like an eternity—and somehow escaping with just a concussion.

Chasing autographs can give you that same feeling of victory and defeat on a much smaller scale. It can make you scream like a little girl, or swear like a sailor. If you’re like me, it pains you to drop a hundred dollars on a signature. That’s why I enjoy the treasure hunt whenever I can. Thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets. The autographs are out there; you just need to go find them. You can get lucky and find that gold nugget if you sift through enough murky water.

On the other hand, I’ve been completely bummed out more times than I can count when I realize that an autograph I acquired either through the mail or at an auction is not authentic. Memo to sports stars: don’t even sign my item if it’s not really you. No rubber stamps, autopens, secretarials—that’s just a complete downer. And it will find my trash bin after I expose the fraud.

Thrill of Victory

Carmelo Anthony rubber stamps his fan mail.

Let’s start with the thrill of victory. I’m constantly at the sales and thrift stores, almost every day. That’s because I buy and sell almost everything on eBay. It has been a great part time job over the years, one at which I don’t have to punch a clock. I can do it wherever and whenever I want. I buy and sell, and hopefully make a profit. And it has the hidden advantage that I’m also constantly on the prowl for my own collection.

A few weeks ago I hit the thrift store circuit that’s about a mile from my “real” job. As I turned the corner to the frame aisle—there it was. I saw the Upper Deck sticker before I could tell who it was. And there it was in all its beauty, for the whopping price of $3.99. A Magic Johnson framed and matted photo, signed in gold paint pen, soon to be hanging in my basement bar. Trust me, I screamed like a little girl inside as I hustled to the register.

Agony of Defeat

Carmelo Anthony rubber stamps his fan mail.

There’s two sides to every coin, and once in a while that nickel lands on tails. Such is the case with Carmelo Anthony, the freshmen phenom that guided the Syracuse Orange to March Madness nirvana in 2003. Like most college stars, his freshman year was his first and last in college. He only needed one year to land the riches of the NBA. I tried mailing a floorboard to him in college, but I was probably too late. It seems like you have to get a potential NBA lottery pick autograph when he’s in fifth grade these days. Anyway I hung on to my Carmelo Sports Illustrateds and newspapers, knowing he would come back to Syracuse one day and I would get his autograph in person.

Then a fellow collector posted a success for Anthony—he was signing through the Denver Nuggets team address! I was skeptical but off went my request. Somehow I must have sent two at different times because both came back a few weeks apart. My reaction went from a “Yes!” to a “Aw Man!” when I compared the two signatures. Not only are they spot on matches, they also appear to be stamps.

I didn’t think anyone even tried to pass off the rubber stamp method anymore. The dead giveaway here was the fact that the two signatures matched up exactly. That’s because they were the same signature, stamped one after another. Oh, well—a couple of more items ruined. At least I didn’t break any bones.

Diamonds & Links

Color photo signed by Dudley Hart.

The long winter is finally giving way to the warm sunshine, and the bats and clubs are coming out of the garage. Spring Training has turned into Opening Day and Tiger is back on the greens where he belongs. Maybe he will even sign more autographs in an attempt to repair his image.

With the Masters ending a few weeks ago it’s odd I would receive back a Sports Illustrated I mailed out a while ago featuring one of the greatest covers of all time.

Stadler has always cracked me up. He’s as competitive as they come, and like myself, a sore loser. But he’s great to his fans. In addition to signing the magazine, he also included a beautifully signed glossy card with his nickname across the front. The 1982 Masters was his only Major, but he added 28 more professional wins and still plays on the Champions tour today.

I also received a very cool response to add to my hometown legends wall. Rochester has had 2 golfers play on the tour in my time, Jeff Sluman and Dudley Hart. I probably have ten Sluman autographs but never got around to writing to Hart.

What a great guy. He returned my card and golf ball signed. He also included his own signed 8 x 10 picture as well as a note explaining that our request was lost in a box when he was moving.

Spring Training

My Spring Training hit—a Mark Buehrle signed card.

To be honest—this was the first Spring Training I didn’t send out numerous autograph requests. It’s time consuming and the results I’ve had in the past few years were not great. In fact they were downright poor. So this year I mailed out a single Allen & Ginter’s card. It came back in a few weeks. For the first time ever I batted 1.000 in Spring Training.

About Steve Cyrkin, Editor

Steve Cyrkin is the editor & publisher of Autograph, and focuses mostly on forgery, market and consumer protection issues.


  1. Allen R Hardison says:

    I sent Mark Buehrle a Baseball. Two months latter I gotten it Back signed and personalized. Awesome!!! I now have six out of the twenty perfect games pitchers….

  2. Jeffery Kite says:

    Steve, Mark Buehrle sign my Sports Illustrated featuring the perfect game he threw last year. I sent it to him this spring training, and got it back personally signed to me. What a great guy.