Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sign of the times:
Political baseballs

IT'S ON EBAY | Anthony Tarantino
An occasional look at some of the stuff
available on the Internet auction site

While doing my regular search for odd baseball stuff on eBay this week, I came across an interesting item.

It's a baseball autographed by President Barack Obama. The ball has been authenticated and has a price tag of $4,999.99 or best offer.


So I began to wonder: What other celebrities are out there signing baseballs? Well, there's a bunch. Some more famous than others.

From the acting world, balls are available from such stars as Kevin Costner ($149.95), Will Smith ($129,99), Samuel L. Jackson ($95) and Matt Damon ($79.95). If you don't want to spend as much money, you could always settle for a signed ball of Luke Wilson ($39.95) or Billy Bob Thornton ($13.50).

But if you have your heart set on a presidential ball, maybe you should consider Bill Clinton ($250 to $3,494.99) or George H.W. Bush ($349.99).

You can also find autographed baseballs from horror writer Strephen King ($299), "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini ($170) and "American Idol's" Sanjaya ($75).

Others include: Daytime talk's Dr. Phil ($99.99) and Maury Povich ($13.49).

I looked for Jerry Springer, but fortunately there were no matches.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Unassuming house in North Park
is boyhood home of baseball legend

DESTINATIONS | Anthony Tarantino
4121 Utah St. | San Diego

It's a simple one-story house in San Diego's North Park neighborhood. A blue and white striped canopy covers a small entry way. A green painted walkway leads you to a screened front door. Overgrown plants cover a good portion of the house as you look from the street. A simple chain-link fence keeps you off the grass.

So what's so special about 4121 Utah St. anyway?

It's the boyhood home of Ted Williams.

Williams moved into the house with his family in 1924. As a child, he would walk the streets of North Park swinging his bat. He played ball just a block away at what is today North Park Community Park.

The diamond at the park has a sign. It reads: Ted Williams Field officially named in honor of baseball's Hall-of Famer by the Park and Recreation Board on November 16, 1990.

The house has no such sign. No statue. Not even a plaque.

You could drive by and not even know it was any different than the house across the street.

But this house and this neighborhood are special. They are where a little boy honed his skills on his way to becoming arguably the greatest hitter the game has ever seen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

1989 Topps Wax Pack:
Looks good, to bad it's worthless

An occasional look at the overproduced, sub-standard junk
we collected in the 1980s and 90s

I recently bought a few packs of 20-year-old wax packs at my local baseball card shop. They were dumped in a bin near the front of the store with a sign that read 75 cents each or five for $3.

So being the risk taker, I took out three bucks and walked away with packs of 1989 Topps, Bowman and Donruss as well as packs of 1990 Score and 1991 O-Pee-Chee Baseball Premier.

My plan is to reveal the contents over the next few weeks. Will I be disappointed? You know I will.

Here’s what I pulled:

1989 Topps

38 Paul Runge
63 Mark Clear
103 Tim Birtsas
159 Pat Clements
197 Neal Heaton
245 Jim Rice
277 Mike Davis
354 Larry Parrish
377 Mike Smithson
407 1988 AL Leaders (Winfield)
603 Frank Tanana
642 Argenis Salazar
681 Jeff Robinson
757 Brady Anderson
781 Greg Briley
(1) Broken piece of gum
(1) Advertising card giving me a chance to win a trip to my choice of 1990 spring training camps
(1) Wax wrapper

Players: B+ (A Hall of Famer, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, and a Brady Anderson Rookie)
Design: B (Simple is always good)
Quality: D (Lots of smudges, poor quality overall)
Overall grade: C (Nice looking, bad quality)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Charles M. Conlon:
Baseball's master photographer

| Anthony Tarantino

You’ve seen the photo before:

Detroit’s Ty Cobb is sliding hard into third base while New York’s Jimmy Austin straddles him trying to stay away from Cobb’s sharp spikes. Dirt flies into a cloud. The umpire in the background is ready to make the call.

It may be the most famous baseball photograph ever taken.

It was taken by baseball’s most famous photographer: Charles M. Conlon.

Conlon began his days as a photographer by accident.

While working as a proofreader for the New York Telegram, Conlon was known to take a few snaphots. One day, sportswriter/editor John B. Foster asked him if he would take a few photos for Spalding’s Guide, also edited by Foster.

Conlon obliged and the master got his start.

Conlon photographed the greats of the game from 1904 to 1942.

His subjects included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, John McGraw and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Heck, Conlon probably captured the image of most every Major Leaguer of his day. He was also a photographer for The Sporting News.

Today, original Conlon photographs can be found for sale on Internet site’s like eBay with regularity. But they’re not cheap. Most original prints start in the low $100s and can easily fetch into the $1,000s.

But how do you know it’s original?

First, assess the quality. Conlon shot his subjects with larger format cameras so the quality is visible.

Second, look for the stamp. Conlon’s mark was usually (but not always) on the photograph’s reverse.

Third, notice the handwriting. Conlon’s scribbles/editing marks were very unique.

Fourth, the signature. He would usually sign his last name in a hastily-drawn circle.

And finally, in 1996 Christie’s auctioned hundreds of Conlon’s photos as part of an archive from Baseball Magazine. These examples will feature the auction house’s hologram.

Not all of these attributes need to be present to know you have the real thing. A signature or stamp will usually do the trick.

So while hunting for that next special piece of memorabilia, know that an original Conlon photographs can be had for the price of a good box seat at you favorite ballpark – minus the $10 beer and $6 hot dog.