Random question: Who do you think has the best autograph … and why?

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Random question time … Who do you think has the best autograph in sports — and why?

I don’t have a distinct, definitive reply, but one of the first sigs that came to mind when I thought about this was that of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. As you can see here — on an actual signed baseball — nearly every letter is seen with a clean and somewhat distinct feel to the signature as a whole.

Whose autographs — any sport , any era — stand out to you? Tell us … and show us an example.

I want to know … I might even reward the most interesting answers with an autograph.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

70 Comments

  1. Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 04:06 PM | Permalink

    NASCAR’s Carl Edwards has one of the most readable ( a rare thing! ) and stylish Autograph’s in the hobby. I think it’s great when the signer makes a bit of an effort to deliver an Auto that is actually good to look at and enhances the memorabilia it is on, and not something that just fulfills their obligation to sign.

    Example-

    http://i1089.photobucket.com/albums/i357/AusRam66/NASCAR/Carl%20Edwards%20PC%20-%20NFT/ce11.jpg

    Thanks

  2. chrisolds
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 04:54 PM | Permalink

    Scariest thing about Edwards is how much it resembles Dale Earnhardt’s auto. HAS to be on purpose.

  3. Norman Carlisle
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:11 PM | Permalink

    pete rose and john havlicek have 2 of the best i have

  4. Steven Stahl
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:16 PM | Permalink

    Ive always liked Dennis Eckersley.

    Example (only auto of his i have)
    http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae40/s_stahl02/Traded/scan0064-1.jpg

  5. chris perez
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:16 PM | Permalink

    Brian Wilson of the giants. just because he uses blood from a yeti as ink and a quill from a blue porcupine puffer fish as a pen

  6. Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:36 PM | Permalink

    I’ve always like Brian Bannister who I met in Mexico:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e111/arturohillo/Autos/IP/BrianBannister.jpg

  7. Mark
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:43 PM | Permalink

    The best autograph in sports has got to be Richard Petty. It is legible, elegant, and signed with precision.

  8. Tyler
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:45 PM | Permalink

    You have to give it to the old timers. Guys like Mantle, Berra and Mays. Even go back to the Babe, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and the like. Whether it was due to the fact that the number of autographs they had to sign was significantly less than today’s player’s or that they lived in a bygone era where people took pride in the little things (like ones signature), the players of yesteryear have the best signatures. Check some of them out: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/automenu.shtml

  9. chrisolds
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 05:45 PM | Permalink

    Good examples coming. I’m sure there are more …

    Mark: Ever gotten Petty on a card through the mail? Not as impressive — just “R. Petty” for me.

  10. Chris
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 06:07 PM | Permalink

    Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis

  11. Matthew Gilman
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 06:27 PM | Permalink

    Ken griffey jr by far. sweet sig and a sweet swing. his autos are very easy to read and looked great on any item

  12. rhmitp1
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 08:13 PM | Permalink

    Julius “Dr J” has a sharp sig, and pretty hard to get. I also agree with you Chris I had gotten a
    Richard, Kyle and Adam at a Ingles supermerket and they all were great signers.

  13. Jim B.
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 09:03 PM | Permalink

    Can’t scan it, but Mr. Kennedy/Anderson is by far the best auto in sports!!!

  14. Shawn Campbell
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 09:46 PM | Permalink

    was going to say petty but since its been mentioned I say Ozzie Smith especially when you get the legit not rushed auto with the Dot above the i and below, even when it is rushed you can still read it perfectly. I absolutely HATE the Fact that these kids scribble there names I mean common they get paid for their auto so there is no excuse to not at least TRY ! the ABSOLUTE WORST IS K2 got a card from donruss his rookie year from a hundred plus dollar Pack and thought “I bet your Dad hates that you don’t sign your name” those who don’t know who i am talking about he plays football and his dad is one of the greatest Chargers of all time and possibly one of the best Tight Ends the sport ever saw

  15. George
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

    Without a doubt there are some great ones. I have a genuine Mickey Mantle. It is so distinctive and there is a certain beauty to it. So symmetrical and rounded. In football it is hard to argue with a great Dan Marino. Very forceful looking autograph. Ben Hogan also had a beautiful autograph. Very precise and smooth, but overall, maybe the best is Jack Nicklaus. Every letter is perfect and just the right slant to the letters.

  16. Nathan Crandell
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 11:09 PM | Permalink

    Although I cant post a scan right now, but I am not a personal fan of the players as much, but I think Neftali Feliz and Chris Coghlan. I like Neftali’s because it is small, tight and neat and I like Chris’ because of the Awesome loops. Although both are typically common auto’s I like collecting them because of what the auto’s look like.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?VISuperSize&item=300608227532

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?VISuperSize&item=250927294503

  17. Evan
    Posted Wednesday November 9th, 2011 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

    Stephen Strasburg has a cool auto, but the most readable has to be Johnny Bench or Alan Trammel.

  18. Pierre Gallant
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 01:27 AM | Permalink

    It has to be a three way tie between Montreal Canadiens players:

    Jean Beliveau
    Maurice Richard
    Steve Shutt

    With a slight edge going to Shutt, but i have NEVER seen a sloppy auto from any of these habs greats

  19. Alice Schmidt
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 01:32 AM | Permalink

    You may not be able to make out each letter in his name, but when most people see this signature, it is instantly recognizable. Mr. Walter Payton had one of the most distinctive signatures in all sports. He is truly missed.

    (Cut and paste into URL line)

    http://i141.photobucket.com/albums/r79/24Phoenix/th_PaytonHelmet.jpg

    Alice Schmid
    Albuquerque, NM

  20. SesameSt4Life
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 05:27 AM | Permalink

    Jeff Keppinger

  21. Trevor Perks
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 07:40 AM | Permalink

    Eli Manning has a nice, legible autograph

  22. actual collector
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 09:06 AM | Permalink

    bob mcadoo,ken griffey jr, cal ripken jr, the old Michael Jordan auto, stan musial a few years ago, will clark, eli and peyton manning, joe namath, and derek jeter. Jeter’s is really hard to make out but looks really cool.

  23. Ross Barton
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

    I think Johnny Unitas has a beautiful signature. Got his auto as a kid (too bad I didn’t have a card or football). Also, I recently got Matt Hassellbeck’s auto at a Titans practice. Never saw his before but it looks really good compared to most others today.
    [IMG]http://i1109.photobucket.com/albums/h422/volatty/In%20Person%20Autographs/2011-08-08175247.jpg[/IMG]
    [IMG]http://i1109.photobucket.com/albums/h422/volatty/In%20Person%20Autographs/utf-8BSU1HMDEzNDEuanBn.jpg[/IMG]

  24. Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

    “Best” being a relative term, I have always liked seeing guys with unique, readily identifiable signatures on the baseballs in my collection. Some of the guys who’ve signed for me have those generic, trying-to-sign-for-everyone signatures that just look like everyone else’s or don’t even look like their name, or worse, are just an initial followed by a line (thank you, Dan Haren and Jordan Norberto).

    The best signatures don’t have to show every letter or be completely readable. They need to be unique, eye-catching, and knowable. Cal Ripken Jr. has one of those signatures. Everyone knows it, it looks great on the sweet spot of a ball, and no one else’s sig looks like it. For me being a big DBacks fan, Luis Gonzalez’s autograph was also just as nice.

  25. Ken Anderson
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    I have three “best autos” in no particular order ~ Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith and Joe Garagiola, Sr. Andre’s is more a work of art than handwriting, while Ozzie’s and Joe’s are simply beautiful ~ as if the ink flowed from the pen on its own. Finally, all three take pride in their autos, just the way they played the game!

  26. Kevin
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    Chris Johnson baby!

  27. Brad Copeland
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    Gotta give it up to Johnny Unitas. Not only did he have a beautiful signature, but he had to learn to sign it with his left hand because of the damage his playing days did to his right.

  28. Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    Manon Rheaume – beautiful lady, beautiful auto that has not changed at all over the past 20 years, as you can see if you compare her certified autos from 1992-95ish Classic products right through to numerous releases (Canadiana, Dominion, etc.) over the past few months.

  29. Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    I have always been impressed with the penmanship of Johhny Bench

  30. jim gonzales
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

    I hate to say this because of the team he played for is the one I hate the most in ALL OF SPORTS but Emmitt Smith has the most unique,consistent,and probably unable to forge.HIS AUTOGRAPH IS SWEET!!!!

  31. Yankeescop
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    Raymond Berry has a great signature.

  32. Paul
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 01:14 PM | Permalink

    Harmon Killebrew’s auto is far and away the best ever!!!!!!

  33. Dave Elkjar
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 02:09 PM | Permalink

    Hockey player Marty McSorley has a great autograph – very stylish, yet legible too.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/MARTY-McSORLEY-06-07-Parkhurst-Auto-232-ENFORCERS-SP-/120796970021?pt=US_Hockey_Trading_Cards&hash=item1c200f7c25

  34. Phil Regetta
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 02:13 PM | Permalink

    Chipper Jones’ auto is very sweet!

  35. David Johnson
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 02:28 PM | Permalink

    Gary Carter has a very easy to read signature. I may be biased as he is my all-time favorite baseball player. Keith Hernandez has a pretty distinct autograph as well. Then again I think prior to the 90’s most players had fairly distinct and full written signatures. It definitely seems like more of today’s players either don’t want to take the time or don’t care about making their signature nice. Maybe it is the volume of things that modern players sign, or maybe it is the fast paced society we are in, but most signatures now look very sloppy and rushed.

  36. Lucas
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 03:00 PM | Permalink

    John Havlicek has the best sig, with a nice upward slant in a perfectly straight, legible line. The WORST by far is Geronimo Gil; anybody can draw a line with a hook at one end.

  37. Kevin
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 03:00 PM | Permalink

    Mantle has the best auto. It’s legible yet distinct. You can clearly identify each letter, but it still has some style and flourish. There is soemthing about the way he did the “M”s that look cool.

    He was also very consistent, you can look at any authentic Mantle sig and they all look pretty much the same.

    It’s the easy choice, but I can’t honestly put anyone above him.

  38. sconnienation3
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 03:39 PM | Permalink

    Have to agree with George above–Mantle’s auto is fantastic. Perfect curl on the M’s. Also a big fan of Donald Driver. Really distinct signature, and he doesn’t sign all that much.

  39. Rick Saltsman
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 03:44 PM | Permalink

    I have always liked Barry Larkin’s and Johnny Bench’s. Very clean and consistent every time.

    http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt240/7WhoDey/ebe1344b.jpg

    I can also tell you one that stands out for the wrong reason……RYNE SANDBERG!!!!! TERRIBLE!

    http://s615.photobucket.com/albums/tt240/7WhoDey/?action=view&current=scan0016.jpg

  40. Leslie Westbrook
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 04:37 PM | Permalink

    Cal Ripken Jr’s signature really demonstrates the classiness and focus he exemplified in his playing style. Simple–sometimes easy to overlook (in a good way)–but effective and graceful…fully functional, loveable and distinct. Oh, and every letter is legible–every letter. P.S. also…very, very consistent (it is Cal, you know).

  41. Wibs
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 04:53 PM | Permalink

    Any guy that takes his time when he signs is appreciated, but I loved Harmon Killebrew’s signature. He took a lot of pride in making it look good, and having such a long name it just scrolls over everything he signed. One of the greats.

    Pat Neshek’s is also kind of fun, but what do you expect from a guy who collects autos himself.

  42. toughpull
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 05:12 PM | Permalink

    Curtis Martin is the best auto i have in my collection

  43. JonathanI
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 05:23 PM | Permalink

    When Michael Jordan makes his “M” look like a “23” it is tough to beat. Jim Gantner, however, was always the most readable, in my opinion.

    JonathanI

  44. Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 06:24 PM | Permalink

    Luis Aparicio!

    http://topps08.blogspot.com/2011/08/luis-aparicio-collection-2005-sp.html

    moe.

  45. Caleb Kruse
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 07:26 PM | Permalink

    mine is nascar superstar dale jr his auto is so cool looking all the loops and he signs dale jr

  46. Luke Harley
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 07:36 PM | Permalink

    Chris,
    I 100000% agree with your choice. I’m a huge Rivera fan and his autograph is absolutely gorgeous. It’s clean, consistent, and has a timeless look. Great pick!

  47. CUJO
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 07:59 PM | Permalink

    The Big Train… Walter Johnson

  48. James
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 08:02 PM | Permalink

    I have to agree that Sandbergs auto is terrible.

  49. chris perez
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 08:10 PM | Permalink

    mickey mantle’s signature is so nice, there’s alot of people who have taken the time to learn how to copy it. now that’s swagger

  50. Shawn
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 08:17 PM | Permalink

    I have to say one of the most unique autographs out there is Da Bears late running back Walter Payton. The way he starts off the autograph with the loopy “w” makes it feel he really enjoyed connecting with fans through his signature. I have a couple items of his that were autographed but I would love to get some more items. The only problem is it gets hard to give up an arm and a leg each time you score his signature.

  51. Nick Tegeler
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 09:14 PM | Permalink

    Mine is close between Don Mattingly and Larry Bird.

  52. Aaron Sparks
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Permalink

    Eli Manning, he was at the rookie premiere and had to sign thousands of autos but gave you 100% effort from the first to the last. Others like Vernand Morency with his famous V and Chris Johnson went very cheap and quick, really robbing the fan. Very close second would be Derek Jeter and he is only second because he doesnt sign as much!

  53. RockOfRockyTop
    Posted Thursday November 10th, 2011 at 11:06 PM | Permalink

    The signature that is in my collection now that I’m enjoying most is that of the Braves Alex Gonzalez. It by no means is readable, but it does have the feel of a graffiti artists tag. It flows so well and is very consistent.

    http://item.mobileweb.ebay.com/viewitem?itemId=140615513965&index=16&nav=WON&nid=88774266644&trxId=0

  54. Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 12:51 AM | Permalink

    Ron Darling has a fantastic auto. Reggie Smith was a great signer, and super legible too!

  55. matt
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    i think mickey mantle and albert pujols has the 2 best autographs in baseball dale sr has the best auto in nascar and bill walsh and joe montana have the 2 best autos in football.

  56. Jessica Gilman
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    I just recently saw a unique awful autograph if those words can be used together. Vernand Morency has one of the most easiest, sloppiest autos around. but it really stood out to me. You would think he could sign tons of autographs in minutes due to his easy V. Maybe I should start signing things with a J. That would make things easier.

  57. Tom Bilkie
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    My favorite auto is Victor Martinez – clear and lots of loops. It is why I started collecting him.

    I have a few others that I like the looks of (Elway, Jeter, Ripkin, LT, Drew Gooden) but the best auto for me is J.S. Giguere – that is a cool auto.

    I always liked Tiger Woods’ auto, too. It is like he signs on a ruler.

  58. Steve
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 01:35 PM | Permalink

    Without question it’s Harmon Killebrew. Beautiful, readable and he took great pride in his autograph and bristled at those who scribbled their names.

  59. Dan
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 01:47 PM | Permalink

    As far as newer players, I think Sam Bradford has a really nice auto. It is legible and doesn’t look hurried…

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/2010-Topps-Chrome-SAM-BRADFORD-ROOKIE-AUTO-BGS-9-5-10-GEM-MINT-5-PRISTINE-/260877055584?pt=US_Football&hash=item3cbd7bf660

  60. Alvin Yam
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 02:48 PM | Permalink

    I agree that Marty McSorley has the best autograph. He takes his time with everything he signs. Once at Reunuon Arena, he asked if we wouldn’t mind moving up under the awning so we wouldn’t get sprinkled on. He even asked if everyone got his autograph. Marty even enlarges his signature for 8×10’s and tries to sign the item in a place where it will show up.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/MARTY-MCSORLEY-SIGNED-8X10-PHOTO-COA-SAN-JOSE-SHARKS-/290602012510?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43a93acf5e

  61. Matthew Haycook
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    JOHNNY BENCH!

  62. Matthew Haycook
    Posted Friday November 11th, 2011 at 10:25 PM | Permalink

    I would also have to say Pete Rose. Both instantly recognizable and legendary

  63. cincy Scott
    Posted Saturday November 12th, 2011 at 08:39 AM | Permalink

    Barry Larkin, Marvin Lewis , T.O., Anthony Munoz

  64. doug h
    Posted Sunday November 13th, 2011 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    Long while back I opened the all sports from UD and pulled the first booklet…Mantle/Unitas 1/1 and while I did sell it, their autographs are engrained in my head forever..Swisher’s not bad either..wink wink

  65. Frank
    Posted Sunday November 13th, 2011 at 05:15 PM | Permalink

    Best auto by far is Mickey Mantle’s. Very clean, legible, and pristine.

  66. Mariners Fan
    Posted Sunday November 13th, 2011 at 08:19 PM | Permalink

    I’d have to say Mickey Mantle has the best autograph hands down!!!!!!!!

  67. NickM
    Posted Monday November 14th, 2011 at 02:08 AM | Permalink

    John “Blue Moon” Odom – it’s precise, neat, completely legible, and it even includes his nickname in quotation marks.
    http://i.ebayimg.com/05/!B60Wq0gBGk~$(KGrHqMOKkMEyN4dblroBMydrV)oNQ~~-1_12.JPG

  68. The Dude
    Posted Monday November 14th, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

    Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Pete Rose

  69. Yankeesfan
    Posted Saturday November 19th, 2011 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

    Babe Ruth and don mattingly.

  70. KENNE CUES
    Posted Sunday February 19th, 2012 at 03:20 PM | Permalink

    Elvis Andrus

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