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Rickey says Rickey won't sign that for free

I got a chuckle out of some quotes that appeared in an SCD story recently, where 1982 AL Batting Champ and base stealer extraordinaire Willie Wilson was telling our correspondent Ross Forman about his ambivalence about signing autographs.

In the story, Wilson provided details about several unpleasant incidents when overzealous fans jostled his family or otherwise made the process of signing autographs something hardly to be embraced.

Wilson, who was a fine ballplayer and a genuine game changer with his blazing speed, made good points and his feelings about signing are perfectly understandable, but it was a couple of paragraphs later on that caught my eye.

Though not much of a collector, Wilson did tell a story about a pictorial he owned featuring the top base stealers, noting that he had picked up about 25 signatures for the piece.

As might be expected, he wanted an autograph from the all-time leader, but when he approached Rickey Henderson, The Great One declined to provide his signature.

Unlike Wilson, who would pass on signing things for arguably defensible philosophical reasons, for Rickey it was not quite so complicated. He said he wanted to get paid for signing it.

I always like Wilson, but I would disagree with another statement he made earlier in the same piece (Oct. 3 SCD). He was, he insisted, being paid to play baseball, not to sign autographs.

Major League Baseball is, first and foremost, in the entertainment business, and the principal entertainers are paid lofty salaries based on contributions to that entire picture. Certainly any individual player – especially the highest-level performers – can opt out of helping in the various PR duties that typically are part of the game, but doing so either means that those duties get passed on to another teammate who doesn’t have quite as much clout, or they don’t get done at all.

It’s my old-fashioned side, but I don’t much care for either approach.


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