Credit: Brian Heise

Collector's Corner: 1990 "Signed" Baseball

Commemorative baseball

credit: Brian Heise

Baseball From 1990 Season is a Forgotten Treasure

Every so often you stumble upon something from your childhood that has long since been forgotten. This can be any number of things. Sometimes it’s a toy and other times it’s a commemorative item from one of the local sports teams. In this case, we are talking about the latter.

On a recent trip back home, I stumble upon a random piece of Cleveland Indians memorabilia that had been doing nothing more than sitting on a shelf in my parents’ basement collecting dust. The strangest part is that while it was sitting in a cold, dark basement collecting dust, it never lost its significance, at least not to me. You see, while I can’t exactly remember how I came to acquire this piece of history, it may have come from the WUAB 43 Kids Club since I remember them sending me a wallet and some trading cards, I do know that I was really young and thought it was the coolest thing ever. No, that is not an exaggeration. Coolest. Thing. Ever.

But what exactly is this beloved heirloom from my childhood that I used to covet so dearly? Well, take a look for yourself.

Commemorative baseball

credit: Brian Heise

Yes, that is a baseball and it is signed. Actually, it’s not really signed. What’s going on here is that the Indians took signatures from the majority of the Indians roster at the time and had them reproduced onto this ball. The end result was a baseball with real fake signatures all over it. You can begin to understand now why at six years old I thought this was the coolest thing ever. The Indians… sent me a ball signed by the team… I was so naive.

However, upon recently discovering this ball in the depths of my parents’ basement, I felt it was necessary to figure out exactly what year this was from. I proceeded on a fact finding mission that I initially thought might take some time, but ended up taking only a matter of minutes once I discovered one crucial piece of evidence.

My initial plan of attack was to examine the names of the signatures I could recognize and determine the year of the ball based on the rosters the team was working with at the time. This was made a bit easier because I knew this was pre-Jacobs Field and also during a year where I was able to form memories and have an understanding of what was going on around me. That meant this baseball had to come from between 1988 and 1993.

As you can see from that first picture, John McNamara‘s signature was right in the middle. This meant that the ball had to come from either the 199o or 1991 season since those were his only two years spent as manager of the Cleveland Indians. From there, I began looking at the different names – Tom Candiotti, Ken Phelps, John Farrell, Doug Jones, Buddy Black, Joel Skinner, Felix Fermin, Brook Jacoby… and on and on it went.

Commemorative Baseball

Credit: Brian Heise

Commemorative Baseball

Credit: Brian Heise

Commemorative Baseball

Credit: Brian Heise

Commemorative Baseball

Credit: Brian Heise

However, many of those names did very little to help me determine which season this ball was from. And that’s when it hit me. The answer to this riddle was staring at me straight in the face. It was as if I was Indiana Jones and I had just made some sort of major archaeological discovery. Look for yourselves and see if you can find it. I’ll give you a second.

Commemorative Baseball

Yes, right there in the middle is the signature for the one player that could blow this mystery wide open. The man, the myth, and the legend. The one and only… Keith Hernandez.

What had gone from being a random piece of not so valuable Indians memorabilia had officially transformed into something more. You see, just as fossil records prove the existence of species that have long since come and gone from our planet, this baseball does something that perhaps no other piece of Indians memorabilia can do – prove that Keith Hernandez was a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Baseball Reference tells us that Hernandez played in 43 games and made 145 plate appearances for the Tribe during the 1990 season. But did he really? Does anyone have any recollection of this really happening? Do we have video evidence that he stepped into the batters box? Who’s to say, but what we do have is a baseball that proves he was associated with the Cleveland Indians at some point in his career.

How cool is that? It’s like the coolest thing ever, right? And… it give me an excuse to post the video below. We all win! (refresh if player fails to load)

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