Hobby Musings: Catching up with former big leaguer Mike Heath – Former catcher Mike Heath had a lengthy career in Major League Baseball with a handful of teams. In retirement, he has helped to make an impact by being one of the athletes supporting Signatures for Soldiers. While he’s not the biggest collector out there, he did have some firm feelings about baseball card photography.
KS: Mr. Heath, how did you get involved with Signatures for Soldiers?
MH: Tim (Virgilio) had messaged me and asked if I’d be willing to sign for. I support soldiers and police in any way I
can, so I was very receptive to the idea. Besides signing for Signatures for Soldiers, I do runs for the police on my motorcycle as a way of supporting them.
KS: Did you ever think you’d be able to use your autograph for a good cause like this?
MH: I wouldn’t have thought so when I was playing. After you retire though, that mindset changes when people reach out and ask to sign for such a good cause. I never thought my autograph would mean that much to somebody. I know people collect cards, but I never thought I’d be in a position where a signed card of mine would mean so much to someone they’d pay to have it.
KS: The sports card and memorabilia world has undergone a very large boom over the past few years. Did you ever imagine it would get as big as it is now?
MH: Yes. I remember when we were kids, we didn’t really seek autographs all that much, but we did go after cards, because we liked baseball. I thought it was going to be a big collector thing. In the minors, you heard about guying collecting cards.
KS: How many autograph requests would you say you receive now?
MH: Not too many. There will be some that come through the mail, but not many. Since I started sending off to a friend who takes care of the business/money end, I don’t get as many requests since people have to pay for my signature.
KS: What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to sign?
MH: There’s nothing odd that sticks out to me. On occasion, I would get asked to sign baseballs that already had signatures of guys like Mickey Mantle. When that happened, I’d always ask the person if they were sure they wanted me to sign it. Sometimes, I wouldn’t do it and ask for something else to sign instead. If somebody gave me a card/picture of someone like Thurman Munson, I wouldn’t do that either. I just can’t sign on someone else’s picture as I feel it would be disrespectful to the player on the photo. I respected my elder peers and wouldn’t sign if it’s not my picture.
KS: What memorabilia, if any, did you keep from your career?
MH: I’ve got quite a few bats that are signed. I have action pictures of me playing, as well as pictures of some of my friends. I didn’t get many autographs though. I have a picture of Huey Lewis and the News, myself and Tom Selleck, and myself with Emelio Estevez and Charlie Sheen. I do have autographs of Dan Marino and Annika Sorenstam that I bid on and won.
KS: Is there any memorabilia that you didn’t keep that you wish you still had?
MH: No, not really. I wasn’t a big autograph or memorabilia seeker so to say. I do wish I had gotten Bear Bryant’s autograph. I was recruited by Alabama to play football. I got to meet him in 1978 at Yankee Stadium, and I wish I would have gotten his autograph.
KS: You’ve had a number of trading cards released. Did you have one that was a favorite?
MH: There’s a couple of catching action shots that I really liked. One when I was with Detroit where I’m coming out after a bunt. Now that was an action shot. There’s another good one where Kirby Puckett was hitting me at home plate. Back in the day, some of the card photos were just staged too much for my liking.
KS: Did you collect your own cards?
MH: Not really, but to the best of my knowledge, I do have all of my cards that were released. People would send me extras over the years. When I ride on my motorcycle and get to meet other bikers across the states, you customarily swap items. Some people might exchange items like a Vietnam patch. When we do the exchange, I’ll take a card out of my bike and sign it for them. They may not know me or that I played baseball, but that’s my exchange item. Or if I see some kids, I’ll sign for them and/or their parents, who may recognize me. That’s pretty cool to me to be able to do that.
Hobby Musings: Catching up with former big leaguer Mike Heath
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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