It’s a common scene these days. Dad has taken little Timmy to the baseball card show. They’ve paid S5 each to get in. The boy wants the autograph of Raoul Strikeout, his favorite player, who will be signing today. Timmy is ecstatic. But what’s this? In order for the starry-eyed tot to collect Raoul’s John Hancock, Dad must plunk down an extra $7.50. He yanks Timmy away, mumbling about greedy pro athletes.
Joe Fan may feel better after cursing these ball-yard plutocrats (after all, 106 big leaguers made a million or more this year), but the problem is, it ain’t so. According to Wanda Marcus, owner of Arlington Sport-cards and the organizer of this area’s largest card shows, players don’t pocket little Timmy’s allowance-at least, not directly.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time the player is there for an appearance fee, and the [card show] promoter is simply trying to offset the cost of having him there.” says Marcus. “This is a big misconception. Players don’t get the money.”
Jordan Woy, of Woy, Wein-berg & Woy Management Group Inc., represents Texas Ranger player Pete Incaviglia. He says that players are free to “work out their own deal,” but he adds that “almost always, they are there for the [appearance] fee only. That fee depends on just how hot the player happens to be.”
And “hot,” Woy says, means not simply how well the player is playing, but how he fares in the lucrative market of baseball collectibles. While they insist that appearance fees are not the same as autograph fees. Woy and Marcus see nothing unethical about charging for autographs because, they say, many of them will be turned for a profit. “There are dealers setting up shows in California who are fourteen years old,” Woy says.