Sport: Assembly Line of Dreams

Ballplayers sell their good names at autograph marts

What is the market price of admiration? It can't be intimacy that ballplayers are peddling for $5, $8 and $12 a signature to children lined up at autograph marts. Almost any weekend of the year in school halls and shopping malls, casino hotels and churches, heroes are hired to lure hobbyists to baseball-card shows where memories are for sale.

Sometimes for a flat fee, often for a guarantee plus commission, old and young stars typically stay four hours on a Saturday and Sunday in an assembly line of dreams. Behind their tables, the idols scarcely speak or stir. "No time for...

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