Saturday, May 21, 2005

Vintage Seals Stadium seats for sale 

The DiMaggio brothers all played there, Joe during his 61-game Pacific Coast League hitting streak in 1933. So did Willie Mays, briefly, before Candlestick Park was built. San Francisco baseball icon Lefty O'Doul managed scores of games there.

Seals Stadium simply oozed history. Now, part of it is for sale.

About 2,500 of the wooden seats that were in the park when it opened in 1931 are for sale by the Tacoma Rainiers of the current PCL.

How did the Seals Stadium seats end up in the Pacific Northwest?

Well, when the San Francisco ballpark closed after the 1959 season and the Giants moved to the just-constructed Candlestick, the seats were installed in Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, before the inaugural PCL campaign there.

That is where they have stayed since.

But now, the Rainiers, a Mariners farm club, are replacing the old seating section, and, after nearly three-quarters of a century, the one-time Seals Stadium seats -- now Tacoma city property -- no longer have a home.

Rather than toss them into the garbage bin, however, Rainiers officials have decided to sell them.

"To help pay for the new seats," Rainiers general manager Dave Lewis said.

The vintage PCL still carries a lot of weight with fans and collectors, and they are responding.

"We've already sold between 200 and 300 of the seats, and we haven't begun marketing in the Bay Area yet," Lewis said.

As sports memorabilia prices are going, the seats are a relative bargain -- $75 each, plus tax and about $25 for shipping. Quantity discounts may also be available.

Lewis said each seat will include the wooden back and base and the metal arm rests, in "as is" condition.

Those interested in making a nostalgic purchase should contact Patti Stacy by phone at (253) 752-7707, by mail at the Tacoma Rainiers baseball club office, 2502 South Tyler St., Tacoma, 98405, or by e-mail at pstacy@tacomarainiers.com.

Sign in, please: New Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young will be signing autographs at the Fan Club, 123 Winchester Blvd. in Campbell, on June 11 from 4-8 p.m.

New store owner Bob Madsen, who recently bought the business from Kent and Mike Herkenrath, said he is expecting about 1,000 fans for the signing, and 400 will be given at opportunity to have a photo taken with the former 49ers quarterback.

Autograph prices are $75 for flat items, $85 for mini-helmets and footballs, $95 for helmets and jerseys and $35 for inscriptions. Package deals are also available.

Man on fire: You hear a lot about the rapidly escalating prices of vintage baseball cards, but one modern card is attracting a lot of attention, too.

That's the 2001 autographed Bowman Chrome rookie card of Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, which is No. 1 on Beckett Baseball magazine's "hot list" for the third straight month.

Raw copies of the card (just 500 were produced) reportedly are bringing a couple of thousand dollars each, according to Beckett managing editor Mike Payne, with gem mint-graded copies going for $11,000 to $15,000.

Negro League Legends Hall of Famers recognized 

Members of the Negro League Legends Hall of Fame kept a whirlwind schedule of recognition activities over the May 13-14, 2005 weekend to promote the opening of Negro League Legends Hall of Fame Center scheduled for the fall. The celebration began with their first Annual Spring Golf Benefit and concluded with a black-tie dinner, silent auction, and a autograph signing at the Largo Hotel Saturday evening.

The oldest “living legend,” 102-year-old Ted “Double Duty” Radcliff was featured at the golf benefit. Radcliff played for the Washington Homestead Grays at Griffith Stadium. The Washington Nationals (DC’s new baseball team) saluted the Negro League Legends at RFK Stadium on Friday evening.

On Saturday, May 14, the public was invited for autograph signing and a chance to meet these great players at the World Gym in Largo, Md. Among the Negro League Legends present at the World Gym were:
Eddie Banks (Newark Eagles, played in the 50’s); Jimmie Bland (Indianapolis Clowns, 60’s); Al Burrows (Indianapolis Clowns, 50’s); Willie Fordham (Howard Giants, 50’s); Ernie Lewis (Memphis Red Sox, 50’s); Jake Sanders (Kansas City Monarchs, 50’s); James Tillman, Sr. (Homestead Grays, 40’s), and Jim Wheaton (Harrisburg Giants, 40’s).

Legend Jake Sanders said, “It is a good feeling to come back here. We played here years ago. Now we can tell our story of what happened back then.”

“I hope this will trigger more interest in baseball for young African Americans,” added Legend Jimmie Bland. “With the White House, Capitol, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials here, the visitors can add our new research center to their list of things to do.”

The ribbon cutting for the new center is scheduled for Saturday Oct. 8, 2005, Bland noted. The vision of the Negro League Legends Hall of Fame center is to educate the young and old about the contributions of the Negro League Legends in American baseball history.

These men were black pioneers in the field of baseball. Legend Willie Fordham pointed out, “There were a lot of places that we could not go, even to eat. A lot of black families helped us,” said Fordham.

“I remember there was a guy on our bus, Willie Red Harrison, who was very fair-skinned. He would go into some of the restaurants and get food for us,” recalled Jake Sanders.

“The Negro League was harder to play in than playing in the leagues today,” said legend Jake Sanders. “If you did not do your job, you had to go home. There was no farm team. There was always someone around to take your place. Also, the best in the Negro League played against the best in the (white) Major League. We beat them 90 percent of the time. You know back in the 40’s, some wanted to put four Negro teams in the Major Leagues, but the law would not allow it,” added Legend Sanders.

Ted “Double Duty” Radcliff, the oldest living legend, joined the group later for the black tie dinner and silent auction. The auction featured a reception, signed books, bats, baseballs, and hats available for bids.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Up Coming Autograph Signings 

Ryan Cabrera, pop singer/songwriter, signing copies of Take It All Away
5/26/05 4:00 PM at WalMart Pleasant Crossing. Rogers, AR.

Brandi Chastain, Olympic and World Cup soccer star, signing copies of It�s Not About the Bra
5/20/05 7:00 PM at BookEnds - E. Ridgewood Ave. Ridgewood, NJ.
6/22/05 7:30 PM at Books Inc. � Castro Street. Mountain View, CA.

Michael Eisner, soon to be former head of Disney, signing copies of Camp
6/13/05 1:00 PM at Barnes & Noble - Rockefeller Center. New York, NY.
6/15/05 1:00 PM at Borders Books � Broadway. New York, NY.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Autograph hound shuns eBay, seeks to snag stars in person 

NEW YORK - David Laurell's obsession for the past six years has been to complete his collection of autographs from the cast of the 1965 film The Sound of Music, a collection he began at the age of 9.

Laurell, 48, a former Burbank, Calif., mayor and associate editor of Autograph Collector magazine, has autographs from Peter Jennings, Bill Clinton and Katharine Hepburn, among 800 others. But what he's really obsessing about is Julie Andrews.

Laurell could tap into ebay.com and for less than $50, he'd have the autograph. But that is not his way.

Laurell is a sentimental holdout from the days when autograph hounds approached heroes in person. But eBay, the world's largest online retailer, has struck a thunderbolt into the world of autograph collectors, turning fandom into a fast-track business. However, with the origin of many of the autographs traded on eBay being considered dubious by autograph hounds, the best way to get the authentic number is to collect it in person.

Ten years ago, collecting autographs was mostly limited to young baseball fans obsessing about how to get the attention of their favorite star and men with leather patches on their elbows dreaming of a coveted Shakespeare signature.

"EBay changed all that," said Michael Hecht, president of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club, the largest non-profit organization for autograph collectors. With eBay, anyone with a credit card can buy or sell an autograph at mouse-click speed.

Items merely touched by celebrities sell like hotcakes. Autographs by Angelina Jolie, who will sign most anything, are auctioned off by the dozens. But as business has soared, so has the number of fraudulent items sold. The Federal Trade Commission logged 10,700 complaints last year about alleged Internet auction fraud. EBay maintains that it is only a venue for sales and is not responsible for verifying the products sold on its site.

Expert autograph hunters such as Hecht and Laurell say they believe as many as eight in 10 autographs sold on eBay are phonies.

Many of the listed items probably aren't intentional forgeries but are "secretarials" - signed by an underling - or were produced by a mechanical imprint.

Then there is that pesky autopen, a computer-based signature machine that takes a template of a signature and repeats it over and over.

An entire industry that exists to verify autographs is staffed by seasoned collectors who keep an eye peeled for unusual markings, including the identical signatures produced by an autopen. Every swirl, every curve made by the autograph pen is the same. This is a no-can-do in real life.

When Laurell looks around his office, he can map out his life story in autographs. But his collection still feels incomplete without the main cast signatures on The Sound of Music LP, a gift from his grandmother.

He has four cast members left and is focusing on Julie Andrews. She pops up at book signings, a common target for autograph collectors, but she refuses to sign Sound of Music products at the events. So he is asking everyone he knows if they know her. Or know of anyone who knows of anyone who knows her.

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