By Chuck Kaufman
fter the Oscars are handed out, the Academy of motion picture artists pays homage to noteworthy artists who passed away during the past year. Their images and names fade in and out, and we remember.
In recent years, baseball has taken a page from Hollywood, but the best moments of a player exiting the game are those that happen quite spontaneously. Of course, Cal Ripken's home run heroics in his final All-Star Game and Ironman record games could not have been scripted any more heroically than they transpired.
Mark McGwire going into the stands to embrace the Maris family after hitting No. 62 was another Oscar-winning performance for Best Natural Sports Moment. Unlike the Hollywood notables, these athletes are still among the living. No doubt there are others and autograph collectors relish acquiring photographs of those moments, signed by their heroes.
All of which brings us to William Roger Clemens. When he exited the World Series stage, it was modern drama colliding with ancient baseball history. Roger tipped his hat to individuals, to millions. The Marlins' 72-year-old manager Jack McKeon tipped his hat, so did Pudge Rodriguez. The acknowledgements were from a grainy, old flick. Clemens pasted the outside of the plate for a strike three call against his final victim. A strikeout, that's how it should have ended. Well, he could have gotten the win (he got a no-decision as the Yanks lost, 4-3, in the 12th inning of Game 4). And he could have thrown a no-hitter or perfect game or at least a shutout. It was better than that. The Rocket got rocked in the opening inning, then shut 'em down for the next six innings before yielding to a pinch hitter and the Yankee bullpen.
Clemens had control over his pitches. Heck, he had control over his entire career. And now, Clemens has control over his memorabilia. Fans can look for Clemens to appear at shows. He also offers a wide range of autographed memorabilia through his foundation (www.rogerclemensfoundation.com), and the offerings no doubt will grow in the future.
Among the inventory is the March 31, 2003, issue of Sports Illustrated signed by Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and two far lesser pitchers. Five autographs on a cover that also pictures the boss, George Steinbrenner, goes for $250. And, of course, the proceeds go to a variety of children's charities.
Other items on the website include a signed Sporting News saluting "The Road to 300." It's signed and dated 6/13/03, the date he recorded that milestone, for $150. A single-signed Clemens ball with "300 Ws & 4000Ks" notations goes for a pricey $350, but fans can get a Clemens 300-win pennant, signed for $65; and even a signed Red Sox mug for $50.
As spring training approaches, Clemens truly will be a hot commodity. For the memorabilia market, Clemens now enters somewhat of a quiet period, a time between his retirement and his Hall of Fame induction. And, believe me, this is one player, like Ripken, where you can go ahead and circle the date five years from this summer, and make your reservations in some "berg" in Upstate New York.
Clemens will test the market during this quiet period for autograph seekers. (Hey, Roger, check Nolan Ryan's Foundation for an attractive
|The career of one Texan gives way to another. The 2003
World Series launched Josh Beckett into a new fan orbit.
Collectors will snap up Beckett-signed items, figuring
prices will soar with his promising career.
price.) Between now and his induction before the end of the decade, prices will creep up to a Hall of Fame level. Then, as a new HOFer, his autograph prices will carry a premium, at least with the "HOF" notation. In his graying years, as a new generation of 300-game winners emerge, prices may hold or tail-off a bit.
Of course, there will be the 300-win club shows or the three-living-member 4,000-plus strikeout club (Ryan and Steve Carlton are the only two). By that time, perhaps he and Mike Piazza will let bygones be bygones and sign photos of their famous World Series face-off.
Next in drama was having the spotlight aimed at Ivan Rodriguez, who would have been the Series MVP had Josh Beckett not been so dominating. Pudge should have made believers out of many fans who thought he was a token All-Star with the Texas Rangers. Nevertheless, Rodriguez should finally gain national attention among autograph collectors.
And then, of course, there's Mr. Beckett and the next generation of power pitchers. No doubt this year's World Series hero, Beckett, just 23, is primed to see if he can grow beyond being a .500 pitcher during the season and begin piling up wins and strikeouts, just like his idol, Roger Clemens.
Yeah, it's chilly now, but it's beginning to smell like spring already.
Meanwhile, just when you thought Karl Malone had done enough to make him a magnet for autograph seekers, he's making a difference for the Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, he and John Stockton carved up record books and advanced the Utah Jazz to the playoffs, but they never had enough of a supporting cast to win a championship.
Malone, still strange looking wearing a No. 11 Lakers uniform, is now the supporting cast to the Kobe-Shaq show. But who knows, he might become a leading player yet and give collectors a new line of photographs for the Mailman's signature.
Chuck Kaufman, autograph columnist for the Sports Market Report, is also editor of Sweet Spot magazine, a bimonthly publication devoted to vintage and autographed sports memorabilia, and www.sweetspotnews.com.
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