When spending time, money and effort to write to sports stars, it’s always nice to know which guys sign and which don’t. For years, collectors referenced one of the address books published yearly. Today, many use collector websites that are updated in real time with the latest successes and failures. So who are the best through-the-mail signers in all the major sports? Here is my “sure thing” list – guys that always sign. For each sport, I give my pick for top through-the mailer, and a close second. For this column, I focused on retired legends, not current players. Be rest assured if you send out a request to one of these top picks, you efforts will likely be rewarded.
1st - Bobby Doerr
Not many Hall of Famers sign free through the mail, especially in the sport of baseball. Doerr is by far the best, signing whatever shows up in his mailbox. And he’s no spring chicken, at 91 years old. He’s a throwback to his Red Sox playing days from 1937-51, and he signs a very legible signature. He is the oldest living Hall of Fame player, so if you want his autograph, write your letter now.
2nd - Stan Musial
Occasionally “Stan the Man” will sign an item for free that he receives in the mail. But Musial always sends the authentic signed stat card/postcard. In past years, he has signed a hat and baseball for me through the mail. And he also has a great mail-order catalog from his company, Stan the Man Inc. featuring many reasonably-priced items from the greatest living ballplayer. A three-time NL Most Valuable Player and World Champion, Musial is one of the best that ever played the game and a must for any collection.
1st - Joe Theismann
This Notre Dame and Washington Redskins icon never disappoints his fans. Not only does he return everything sent to him with his bold and stylish signature, it usually comes back in record time. I expect nothing less from one of the classiest Notre Dame grads that ever wore the golden dome. His record in college was 20-3-2; he threw for 4, 411 yards, including one game that he racked up 526 yards against USC in 1970. Jim Plunkett beat him out for the Heisman trophy in 1970, but a sign hung out his dorm changed the pronunciation of his last name from then on. After his buddies made a “Theismann for Heisman” banner, Joe decided that his name should rhyme with Heisman (changed from THEEZ-man). He sometimes will add that inscription to his autograph.
A star wherever he played, Theismann was originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins, but instead played for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. Theismann was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the Major League Baseball Draft. He played for the Argos for three years and was an All-Star twice in that time. He went on to win Super Bowl XVII for the ’Skins and was selected the NFL Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press in 1983.
Theismann recently returned a magazine and several cards I mailed him. The envelope came back in less than two weeks!
2nd - Dan Fouts
Fouts threw for more than 40,000 yards in his career with the Chargers, leading his team to the AFC title game twice. To put it mildly, Fouts was not a running quarterback. After his career, Fouts was also a color commentator and worked alongside Al Michaels on Monday Night Football. He is a very quick signer through the mail and has signed a football and helmet for me in years past.
1st - Nate “Tiny” Archibald
Obviously, John Wooden would have been my top choice for probably the last 20 years, but since he has finally stopped signing his mail, I went with a couple of other Hall of Famers. Archibald led the league in scoring and assists in 1973. He helped win a championship with the Celtics and Larry Bird in 1981. He also was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. Archibald has always been a great signer.
2nd - Dave Cowens
Another Boston Celtics legend, Cowens joined Archibald in the Hall of Fame Class of 1991. Cowens was awarded Rookie of the Year in 1971 and NBA Most Valuable Player in 1973. He also has a very legible signature and is happy to sign his fan mail.
1st - Ted Lindsay
“Terrible Ted” won four Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. He was the smallest player on the “Production Line” in Detroit with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, but made up for his size with his tenacity. He is a willing signer through the mail.
2nd - Jim Craig/Mike Eruzione
Almost every member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team is golden through the mail, so I chose the two most talked about stars as my second hockey pick. Eruzione never played in the NHL and Craig played only parts of four years, but they both represent the game of hockey well. Both of these legends will return your request very fast.
To find out who’s signing today and who isn’t, visit my website at www.autographchaser.com.