Pete Rose’s Forged Autographs

What years did you get your Pete Rose autograph by mail?

Do you know who really signed it?

I wasn’t dreaming when I mentioned last week that I seemed to recall a book from the 1980s detailed how Rose delegated his fan mail duties to an assistant.

“Dear Pete” by Helen Fabbri (the secretary) & Larry Names; published by the Laranmark Press in 1985.
This confirmation comes from noted baseball book dealer Bobby Plapinger:
“HERE’s my “catalog blurb” about it: Pete Rose’s story as told (mostly) through his fan mail w. connecting narrative supplied by Ms. Fabbri, his “personal fan mail secretary” for over 9 years. Fwd. by Rose who says he likes letters from kids because “their innocence and faith in me makes all the hard work worthwhile”. He, of course, would go on to reward his young fans’ “innocence & faith” in him for the rest of his career in and out of the game. BW photos.”

Even the book held a hidden story. Could it be that the likely ghost-signer of Rose autographs used a ghostwriter for author?

“Actually, I wrote the book for her. All she did was pick out the fan letters, and i let her have credit as author. Yes, she did sign Pete’s fan mail for him. So anybody who has a response from Pete in those years she was his fanmail secretary might have a forgery. I had Pete’s autograph on something. He signed something for me when we had breakfast together down in Tampa on the last Sunday of spring training 1985. He even picked up the check. Personally, I like Pete and think he’s getting a raw deal from MLB. But that’s another story. – Larry Names”

How’s this for some juicy subplot for the Rose TLC show?

Talking Autographed Baseball Books With Veteran Dealer Bobby Plapinger

Want a unique copy of
this Hall of Famer’s book?
To quote from Bobby’s
sale catalog:
SIGNED by Gaylord Perry & INSCRIBED
 to the catcher Alan Ashby
as follows: “It’s great to have you with us.
You will have many great years to come.
 The best to you and your family.”
Ashby came up with the Indians
 in 1973 & played parts of 4 seasons
 with them – all as Perry’s teammate. – 85.00

Baseball books have a best friend. His name is Bobby Plapinger.

Many know about good baseball titles. Bobby knows what makes a memorable autographed baseball book. I’m grateful that he shares his knowledge and experience with us in this e-interview.

Q: Any tips for getting baseball books autographed (pen to use? Get title page signed?) Who knows? Readers may be contacting you with their recently-signed books to buy?

A: This is really a matter of personal preference. Mine is to have the signer use an ink pen – black or blue – & sign the front flyleaf – the 1st blank page, or the title page.

If it’s someone I know – or have met – I just tell them to do it however they want to.

I like ink better than sharpie because it just seems clearer to me – also, the pen tends to make very fine indentations into the paper, which can help for future identification purposes.

Some people like “personalizations” others don’t. I tend to prefer a “straight signature” unless the signer is an aquaintance of some kind – but I don’t make a big stink about this either. If someone wants to write “To Bobby…” or the like, I don’t protest.

And… of course a personalized signature is less likely to be forged & thus can be good proof of authenticity if & when that’s required.

The one thing I think you should AVOID at all costs, is having the dust jacket or cover, of the book signed. While it can be easy to display, they’re subject to damage from moisture, light or worse & can easily smear, smudge and/or fade. And “protecting” a dj with a signature on it – something you should do, as described above, can actually damage the signature on a signed dj. I’ve seen the ink from a sharpie or marker signature, transfer from the dj to the mylar cover – that fades & smears the original signature.

I’m always open making offers on books. Just remember, just like the guys on “Pawn Stars” (& it’s brethren & spawn…) I’m buying for resale – so chances of my paying a premium on a recently signed book are pretty small.

It’s kind of ironic – but you can buy signed books from most of the Hall of Famers who are doing shows these days for far less than an autograph ticket to have the guy sign the book at a show.

You’d like to think you could sell your signed Hank Aaron autobiography for more than the $200 – $300 you just paid to have him sign it…

You’d be hard pressed to do so.

And that means MY offer will be even less…. ALOT less….

Look at the prices in the signed book list. Figure I’d pay you approx 10%-30% of my asking price for your books, IF, I want them.

Q: Collectors get phobic about collectibles, wanting everything under glass or in plastic. DO YOU TOUCH THE ACTUAL SIGNED BOOK, one gasps?!?

Tips about displaying/preserving/enjoying an autographed book?
A: Again – this is a matter of preference. Books are remarkably hardy if you keep them dry, away from direct sunlight & relatively clean.

You want to store them on shelves. “Standing up”. You want to avoid long term storage of “stacks” of books lying on their “backs” – can lead to dj wear & tear, bumps & bruises & the like.

If you have large oversize books you can “stack” them – as long as they’re protected – on a shelf – NOT the ground.

If the shelves provide cover from dirt/dust – all the better. Use a feather or “swiffer” for dusting, cleaning.

I like to use mylar dust jacket covers – often called “Brodarts” (for the primary manufacturer – although there are a number of different brands) to protect jackets. They help defend against dust, moisture & for older jackets, prevent further deterioration of jackets that already have some age wear.

You can get “acid free museum quality” dj covers if you’re really anal – but the “standard” issue should suffice for all but the most particular.

I think the whole point of books is that they should be read. So – yes – I touch my books. But… carefully – you don’t need to wear white gloves – but you might want to make sure your hands aren’t dirty and/or sticky. Teach kids to treat books carefully, and/or keep yours away from those who are still learning.

You can, if you like, put all/some of your books in mylar bags & for some that are old and/or rare and/or fragile, this might be a good idea. But in general I think books “breathe” the environment around them & enjoy doing so – and an occasional dusting/cleaning – is more than sufficient for preserving most books in most environments.

I like to think that I treat my books – both the ones in my “personal collection” and the ones I sell – carefully and respectfully. But I once got into a big argument with a collector at a show – I write my book prices – in pencil, lightly – in the upper right corner of the front flyleaf (or 1st white page) – & this guy was outraged that I would even consider writing in such a valuable artifact. Even when I explained – demonstrated in fact – that the “writing” was easily removable & then indetectable – he insisted I was wrong to mar the books in that way.

So… as I say… It’s a matter of personal preference.

I like the look of books on a bookshelf. A whole array of “spines out” – really appeals to me. To break up the monotony I use “tchackes” – little figures, pennants, puppets, pictures etc.etc. etc. I also like to display a few favorite books “face out” – with the cover facing the room.

This takes up a little more space, but looks really nice. I think. Then again – I’m used to a bookstore where you use “face out” to entice customers to buy stuff. But I think the principle is the same.

Plus, you can, if you like, change the books you “face out” – which can really change the “look” of your room.. well…. your shelf at least.

Q: What’s your feeling about autographed bookplates?
A: I think part of the appeal of signed books is the notion that the signer actually touched – however briefly & minimally – the book.

You lose that with a bookplate. Also – bookplates lend themselves to fraud – as it’s alot easier to “practice” signatures on cheap inexpensive bookplates that take up no space, than on a pile of books.

That said – many publishers of “signed limited editions” have the signers autograph blank sheets of paper which are later bound into the books. So in those cases, the signer never touches the book & the buyer never knows the wiser..

Well… you do now.

Jerome Holtzman once told me he had “stacks” of sheets of paper signed by Bill Veeck sitting in his basement waiting for a future printing of the “Holtzman Press” “signed, leatherbound edition” of “Veeck As In Wreck” which never materialized.

In spite of my general dislike for signed bookplates, I guess there could be exceptions – if you have custom bookplates & every “signed book” has one in them, that could be kind of cool. I always thought it would be neat to mount signed baseball cards of a player inside his biography/autobiography. In the days of common “by mail” signings, it was a lot easier and cheaper to send cards through the mail than books – not to mention the risk of potential damage in shipping to the book.

I never followed through on this plan – but I still think a library full of “signed” books w. the signatures on attractive bb cards – would be a pretty neat one.

Q: Tell the readers how to get your autographed baseball book sales list by e-mail.
Send me an e-mail at

and I’ll send you the list. I generally just “paste” it in to the e-mail. If you’re mailing from work, make sure to add that address to your “address book” or else it will just get bounced back to me because corporations hate little, local ISP like “” .

I can also attach a PDF of the Spring/Summer Baseball Catalog which lists the majority of my current inventory.

I welcome questions and/or comments about signed books – or anything else you think I can help with. I don’t “social network” but I always answer e-mails & occasionally speak on the phone.

Coming Monday: A troubling headline for autograph collectors

Pondering Bill White’s ‘Uppity’ Autograph

White still begins each
autograph with that
dynamic “B”

How long will Yankees announcer-turned-author Bill White keep signing autographs? For a unique perspective on White’s signature, I turned to bookseller Bobby Plapinger of Oregon’s R. Plapinger Baseball Books.

“I suspect that the “supply” of signed copies of Uppity will come pretty close to equalling demand for same fairly quickly – UNLESS there’s is now, or at some time in the future, something really “special” or.. notorious, about the book or White.

I don’t believe his reticence to sign has caused his autograph on items other than books to be especially expensive – I could be wrong though.  If I’m not… the cost of a signed book right now – assuming you’re not one of the lucky ones to attend one of the tour stops – is probably retail for the book + cost of a Bill White autograph.

Once the book gets remaindered … ITS cost will drop severely – so… at that point the value would be – pretty much whatever White’s signature on a different item would be, as the “value” of the unsigned book will be negligible – if that…

I suppose it’s possible that at some point in the distant future… when Bill & I & you are long, long gone… there could be some demand for signed copies of this book from future buyers.. but.. geez.. I can’t even tell you there will BE future buyers for books – used or otherwise – that far in the future.

It will probably not come as a surprise to you to learn that some of the people who come to see Bill on his “limited book tour” are doing so with the intent of reselling books he’s signed for them at a profit.

It’s not unusual to see one or two… sometimes more – of these – appear on e-bay relatively soon after purchase/signing.  Currently there’s one listed at a “buy it now” price of 79.99.  It’s been there since April & the seller’s now soliciting “best offers”. So I’d say current price is somewhat less than $80.

Now.. maybe once people read your blog & realize how few signings White is doing it’ll increase demand a bit – there are currently 2 signed copies for sale on various used book sites – one for $107, the other for $165….You’d think the two less expensive copies ($80 & $107 would be gone in a month or so…. Will be interesting to see what “the market” is offering then.  In the “old days” I might even be tempted to make the e-bay seller an offer, in the hope/belief that at some point in the not-too-distant future I could justify asking $165-ish…..  but.. that was then & this is now.

Of course….. if in the book – or because of the book – Bill admits to having an affair with Steinbrenner’s wife – or with George – or some such thing…. that could cause prices to skyrocket.  But the book’s been out long enough that I think you can assume something like that is highly unlikely.

Now.. if you had a copy of the new ESPN book signed by Chris Berman, Mike Tirico & Tony Kornheiser – THAT might get you a couple of bucks……!!!!!

Anyone can receive a PDF of my 2011 Signed Baseball Book List by e-mailing me at & requesting one. 10% off if they mention your blog & buy something.”

Bobby is a true baseball fan and avid reader. He’s the best teammate out there for help building an all-star lineup of baseball books.

Discover Another Side of Author Lawrence ‘The Glory Of Their Times’ Ritter

Here’s one more gem from R. Plapinger Baseball Books. If a book was EVER published, trust Bobby to find a copy.

(Reader advisory: to fully appreciate the forthcoming tale, it’s important to know a bit about the huge contributions to baseball history Lee Allen made. Start here, with a tribute from the SABR Bio Project. Now, back to Bobby…)

“My other “inscription story” is somewhat more personal. I was lucky to be one of the hundreds of people who was friends with Lawrence – Larry – Ritter – author of what many still consider to be the single best baseball book of
all time, “The Glory of Their Times”.

(Yes, it’s true. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It
redefined first-person baseball history. It’s a must-have title for any baseball fan.)

“One time Larry generously allowed me to buy some books from his personal
library & one of the ones I picked was “The National League Story” by Lee
Allen – which Allen had inscribed to Ritter

“For Larry Ritter –
Companion of the night
(at the Tuscany, Some indescribable (ALLEN’s spelling…)
German place + Bill’s)

With real affection
Lee Allen
August 21, 1967″

Allen was known to enjoy more than a few drinks & back then, I think, so was
Larry. I’ve always wondered what it might have been like to have
accompanied the two of them on “the night”.

Remember, Bobby Plapinger is the “go to” guy for getting hard-to-find baseball books. (He’s great at finding unsigned and autographed editions.) He’s never let me down. Write him at

Reading Between the Lines of An Autographed Baseball Book

Bobby Plapinger is one of America’s foremost names to baseball book collectors.
As “R. Plapinger Baseball Books,” he’s become an adored author in his own
league. Look at his sale catalog, and you’ll see his mini-reviews are
penned by a grateful, learned fan of the game.

I asked BP (no, not THAT B.P.) what noted autographs he’s discovered in
his years as a bookologist. He offered two juicy tales:

“The first starts in 1989 – probably in the Spring. I was on my annual trip to New York to visit family… and… of course … the Strand bookstore.

By pure chance, I arrived in the Strand’s Rare Book Room on the day they
were unpacking books from Bob Fishel’s estate.

I recognized the name Fishel, but wasn’t well acquainted with him. I did,
however, “know” alot of his books & purchased quite a few of them – many
inscribed to Fishel by the authors.

When I got the books home & had a chance to carefully inspect them, I learned a little more about Bob Fishel.

Turns out he’d started out working for Veeck & the St. Louis Browns – he was
the guy who “found” Eddie Gaedel.

After the Browns, Fishel worked for the Yankees for a long time, before
finally ending up in the American League office. The annual award given to
baseball publicists is named after him.

It was clear from many of the inscriptions that “baseball people” considered
Fishel not only to be a friend & colleague, but a beloved one.

A copy of Bill Veeck’s “sequel” to his autobiography (“Veeck as In Wreck”) –
“The Hustler’s Handbook”, had a page long inscription in Veeck’s handwriting
that read, in part, “To Bob… It’s almost impossible to … explain how
much you’ve meant.. to us”.

In the copy of his “It Takes Heart” which he gave to Fishel, Mel Allen wrote
“To Bob, It has been said: ‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with
us, what we have done for others in the world remains and is immortal.’ To
me, Bob, you are immortal. I am sincerely grateful for your warm friendship.
Mel Allen.”

Other inscriptions from other authors were similarly heartfelt, but these
two, in particular, struck me as almost transcending “inscriptions in a
book”. To me, they were almost like letters from the authors, testifying to
the strong feelings they had for their close colleague and friend.”

At press time, Bauman Rare Books was selling the Mel Allen signed edition for $800.

Friends of this blog need to email Bob at Tell Bob that “Baseball By The Letters” sent you. Ask for his latest catalog, which he’ll send as a PDF.

Tomorrow: The intriguing untold story of a baseball book’s wink-and-nod inscription.