BABE WAXPAK/SPORTS COLLECTIBLES :: Killebrew's signatures aren't rare
Dear Babe: In 1994 my wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C., for a vacation. A new sports bar, "Senators," had just opened on the street level of our hotel. In the bar, we noticed a man that people were talking to, getting pictures of and signatures from. I was told it was Harmon Killebrew. Since I didn't come prepared for a signature (no baseball), I took a napkin and placemat to him for his signature. They both have the "Senators" logo. The mat shows a picture of the 1895 Washington Senators team.
-- Morgan Akin, Redding, Calif.
Killebrew, who succumbed to cancer in 2011, is a Hall of Famer who spent all but one year of his 22-year career with one franchise, albeit in two cities. He broke in with the Washington Senators in 1954 and stayed with the club when it moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961. He appeared in 106 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1975 before he retired.
Killebrew was one of the few "bonus babies" to fulfill his promise. Sandy Koufax was another. In the early to mid-1950s, amateurs who got bonuses to sign with major league clubs had to be put on the big league roster, so Killebrew made his debut as a 17-year-old and slammed his first major league homer as an 18-year-old. However, he blossomed as a 22-year-old in 1959 -- his first full year in the majors.
He slammed 42 homers that year. He was the American League MVP in 1969. Killebrew, a gentle giant, finished with 573 homers and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. When he retired only one AL player had more career homers -- Babe Ruth.
Da Babe spoke with Killebrew in November 2009 when we were checking on the authenticity of some 500 Home Run Club baseballs.
When it came to 500 HR Club items and their authenticity, Da Babe had been told that one of the keys to a fake would be Killebrew's signature. His autograph was always carefully written out and legible.
That was certainly not the case with these baseballs. After looking at an image of the ball in question, he said: "The autograph on the ball you sent the photo of is not mine! No way, no how -- not even when I was very sick!"
Even with word from the source, the AAFES continued to offer the baseballs, saying it trusted the authenticator used by the folks running the auctions.
As mentioned, Killebrew was always considered a gentleman among his peers and the public. There is no shortage of his signature.
Even with the napkin and placemat having the name "Senators" on them, the autographs are just "cuts," a term for a card containing an autograph that was cut from another document. Depending where a signature and logo are located, it would look best framed and matted with an action photo of Killebrew. All that said, they're each worth around $10, said Mike Gutierrez, consignment director for Heritage Auctions (www.ha.com).