Spread some chicken on the hill and get out your green weenie! Alright not all of us were fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the 1970's but these would have been some of the things that you would hear when listening to Bob Prince announcing a Pirates game. Willie Stargell was one of the most prolific home run hitters of the time. In a day prior to steroid accusations when baseball ruled the airways, Willie, was a baseball hero.
As a kid I would listen to the games on a daily basis. Bob Prince announced the games in a way that was Pittsburgh all the way through. But it wasn't just Pittsburgh. Every team had its Willie Stargell, every team had a Bob Prince. Ball players would sign bats, balls and just about anything that a fan would offer. Sometimes they wouldn't.
Many baseballs (or anything signed for that matter) were not signed by the players. These items could have been signed by anyone from the bat boy to the team secretary. Why? The players just didn't have the time to sign every item that was presented to them. So the duties were passed on to the next available person.
So, how do we know if it is a real signature or not? Well if you were the original owner and you are willing to verify that you were present when it was signed is one way. Another way is to purchase a ball from a reputable company that deals in only authentic balls. The first is free, the second can be very pricey. The real problem is that the reputable companies that sell the signed balls weren't around when Willie was playing.
About the only other way to verify the signatures is to send the signed items to a company that verifies that the signatures are real. I checked online and found several that will verify, grade and provide a certificate of authenticity for around $20.00. You will also have shipping costs to add to this making the total closer to $40.00.
What is Willie worth? If it is authenticated and graded reasonably high, the price would be around $100.00. Unauthenticated baseballs sell for around $40.00. The question comes down to is it worth it to get the ball authenticated? The answer sometimes. My real response would be it is worth while only for the top players on the most popular teams. Willie was enormously popular in Pittsburgh, not so much in Cincinnati. Another Willie, Willie Mays would fall under the category of top player on one of the most popular teams and signed items by this Willie should be strongly considered for verification. Oh yeah, there is a possible negative outcome and that is your signature is not real. In this case you spent money to find out that your coveted baseball should be used as a dog toy. Sometimes we do lose on our gambles, stay tuned next week we are going to talk about how to loose money.
Fans are fickle. If a team is having a great year, guess what, the value of any collectibles for that team go up dramatically. If the Pirates have a great year this ball will be worth more. If they have a bad year less.
For the time being I'll probably hold on to this ball. Not only was Willie a childhood hero, but the last couple of years the Pirates were pretty bad. So, GOOOO BUCKOOS! So that someday I'll be able to sell this ball.