From time to time in the auction world, I will run across an old hotel register that will have several names – actual signatures – of various baseball greats, and these are really cool items that, of course, can have considerable value because of the autographs involved.
The one I’d really like to see is a nearly 40-year-old register from a hotel in Olongapo City in the Philippines that would have the entire lineup, listed according to the batting order, of the 1953 Dodgers, one right after the other.
How much would that be worth if the signatures were real? How much would it be worth if the signatures were merely crude forgeries by nine salty sailors from the Communications Division of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway?
We had come into port at the Subic Bay Naval Base after the longest line period off the coast of Vietnam that any carrier had experienced during the war, slightly more than 60 days without so much as a hint of terra firma and a 12-hour-a-day, seven days a week workload.
Since I had been stationed at Subic Bay for nearly two years before getting assigned to the Midway, I was designated as the tour guide for gang as we ventured out to the craziest liberty destination in Southeast Asia.
In that informal capacity, I had explained to my motley crew that the most important matter to dispose of quickly was getting a hotel room, so that you would have a place to crash after an exhausting day of sightseeing at local churches, villages, historical landmarks and the like. Hey, it could happen.
So into the 4-5-6 Hotel we strode en masse, and nine rooms were quickly secured. There it was: Junior Gilliam – Pee Wee Reese – Duke Snider – Jackie Robinson – Roy Campanella – Gil Hodges – Carl Furillo – Billy Cox – Carl Erskine. And no, after 39 years I can't remember which autograph I forged.
It had only taken a certain amount of coaching on my part to get the guys to sign thusly, and they were pretty good sports about doing something where it was difficult to see the humor or the payoff.
I just liked it as a kind of oddball homage to one of the greatest teams in baseball history. And there’s a better chance of somebody turning up the Merkle Ball than there is of finding that ersatz hotel register. And that pronouncement would hold even if Robert Edward Auctions hadn’t come up with said baseball.