NEW YORK -- No one in Major League Baseball has a neater and more legible autograph than Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer, and he can thank Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.
During a visit to the MLB Fan Cave on Tuesday before the Rockies' series vs. the Mets got under way, Cuddyer signed the Rawlings ball wall and explained how his early days with the Twins included an unforgettable admonishment from the Twins legend on treating fans right.
"Before I met Harmon -- before Harmon had ever seen my signature -- it kind of looked like an EKG," Cuddyer said. "It was kind of zig-zag. People didn't know if it was my heartbeat or if it was my name. So I did a signing with Harmon, balls kept coming through, and he kept looking at this chicken scratch. Finally he asked whose this was. There weren't very many other people signing, so it was pretty easy to decide it was my signature. He told me, 'If I see this come through the line again, I'm going to stop signing. I'm going to get up and walk away, and the only person these thousands of people will be mad at is you.'
"So from that moment forward, I wrote it so that every letter, you could read it. At that point it wasn't very pretty. You could read every letter, but it wasn't very pretty. So over the years, I constantly worked on it, worked on it, to the point where it's a pleasure to look at it. I don't have to write my number underneath it, because you don't have to look at the media guide to see who actually signed the autograph. I take a lot of pride in that and it's because of Harmon."
Rockies owner Dick Monfort was with Cuddyer on Tuesday and also took a ball out of the wall and signed it. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has an equally straight and distinctly legible baseball signature, but he's out of the game after this season. That leaves Cuddyer to impart what he learned to other players.
"I do, because a fan obviously wants your signature," Cuddyer said. "He or she cares enough about you to want your signature. You don't want 30 minutes to go by and all of a sudden they forget and don't know who it was who signed your ball. You try and instill that. Some guys listen, some guys don't."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.