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The price isn’t right
Talking Sports By
Bruce Morgan With my son Brooks competing on the Warwick junior high wrestling team this year and going to practices early Saturday mornings (yes, 8:30 a.m. is still early in my book), my plans were somewhat sketchy following a Friday night of covering hoops.
A handful of current and former baseball stars were going to be at the Valley Forge Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, an event that Brooks would certainly want to attend, but with his commitment to the wrestling team, I wasn’t sure if it would fit into our schedule.
Then on Friday night, it turns out that he suffered an injury and was subsequently excused from practice the next day. Although I hadn’t said anything to him about the show prior to that point, we talked about it on Saturday morning and decided to go. Upon looking at the list of signers, Brooks decided that yes, he’d like to get an autograph from Phillies’ second baseman Chase Utley.
In turn, I took a look at the price tag involved and took a big gulp. For the opportunity to have maybe half a minute with one of the stars of the Phillies’ 2008 World Championship team and get his signature, it would cost three digits … before the decimal point.
But we made an agreement. I would pay half if Brooks paid half. And for me, to see the sheer look of excitement and happiness that he had, that was the reward.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Utley and Ryan Howard and all those guys as much as the next person. And yes, if it makes me a geek to have my own collection of autographs, then just call me the mayor of Geek-ville.
But it’s hard not to think back to a trip that some buddies and I took to Atlantic City in the mid-90’s when we were able to get a signature from a Hall of Famer on the sweet spot of a Rawlings Major League baseball. The price that we paid for that piece of history was barely more than the dollar amount attached to Utley’s autograph. And according to what a person in front of us in line was saying, Ryan Howard was at this same show a year ago and wanted close to $300 to sign a bat.
Again, I’m not trying disrespect either Utley or Howard. I’ll be right there this summer following their statistics, cheering them from the ballpark and in front of the television, and hoping they bring another title to Philadelphia. But at this point, neither one have Hall of Fame credentials, and the prices that they command just seem a little out of whack.
My guess is that it comes down to supply and demand. If they can get people to pay that amount, then more power to them. And I know there were at least 300 who waited in line last Saturday for that opportunity. Granted, it was at least nice to know that the money raised from Utley’s signing apparently was going toward his charity, the SPCA.
But hopefully in time, when today’s professional athletes retire and they aren’t in the daily highlight reel being shown hitting 400-foot home runs every time you turn the channel to ESPN or the MLB Network, those prices will come down.
ESPN wasn’t around in my childhood, but guys like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Garry Maddox and Larry Bowa — the guys who played for the 1980 World Champion Phillies — were my childhood heroes. There are photos in an album or two that I have with me posing alongside Bowa and Maddox when they made an appearance at the Leola Family Restaurant. If memory serves me right, Greg Luzinski came to the JCPenny Mall in Park City when I was a kid, but back then, I don’t believe there was a charge for them to sign
Obviously, times change and the prices for everything have skyrocketed since my youth. If someone like myself wants to shell out the kind of money that it took to get an autograph at Valley Forge last weekend, that’s one thing. It just would be nice if it was a little more affordable for kids to get a signature of their childhood heroes. More COLUMN, page B-8