You’re at a major league baseball game, hunkered down in the cheap seats out in left field. It’s late in the game, and the batter is making his third trip to the plate. He’s hit deep to left in his first two at bats, each time driving the fielder almost to the warning track. Here’s another windup, another pitch, another swing, and another crack!
As it did in previous innings, the ball heads your way, but this time it does not appear to move at all. It seems stationary, just getting bigger and bigger, until you realize that it’s heading straight for you. You’ve brought your glove, which you haven’t done in years, and before you know it, your instincts from little league have kicked in, there’s a ball in your mitt, your hand is stinging like crazy, and everyone in the bleachers is suddenly your best friend.
Because you have defied the odds by actually catching a home-run ball at a professional baseball game, you owe it to yourself to stick around a bit longer and wait at the clubhouse door, like a school kid, for an autograph.
Short of that rosy scenario, one of the best ways to get an autographed baseball that you know to be the real deal (fakes abound) is to attend a baseball memorabilia show attended by players, who will autograph baseballs for a fee—the more legendary or popular the player, the higher the fee. It may seem like a lot of trouble, and you won’t get much more than a nod and a smile from the player since they are often contracted to sign a minimum number of items in a given period of time, but at least you will know the signature on your signed baseball is genuine.
One of the most forged autographs is that of Mickey Mantle. By some estimates, at any given moment as many as 85% of all autographed Mickey Mantle baseballs and other memorabilia being sold online could be forgeries, even ones with Letters or Certificates of Authenticity (LOAs and COAs). In all cases, it’s best to buy from reputable dealers who offer lifetime guarantees if there is ever a question about authenticity.
The placement of an autograph on a baseball is also important. The preferred location is the ball’s sweet spot, which is the narrowest band between the ball’s seams. There is more room for signatures on other parts of a ball, but an autograph on the sweet spot will display better, which is why it is most desired by collectors.