Autograph Alley, Part I: A Super Bowl primer

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I am an autograph collector. There, I said it.

You can call me an autograph "geek," if you want. I'll accept that. I won't accept autograph "hound." I don't hang out at team hotels or in the front lawns of people.

This craze, if you will, began about 20 years ago. I had this fascination with St. Louis Blues defenseman Stephane Quintal for some reason and on a lark decided to send him a letter and his hockey card to see if he would send it back signed. He did, and that's all it took.

I concentrate mainly on my two favorite sports now (baseball and hockey) but dabble in a little football as well. There's always the thrill of checking your mail each day to see if someone has sent their card back to you. The in-person autograph is thrilling as well.

I never sell anything I have collected over the years, though I have given some autographs away or traded them for something I really wanted.

I decided to create "Autograph Alley" as part of my blog to share some of my favorite graphs and some of the stories behind them. I want you to share your favorite autographs and stories with me.

I'll update this at least once a week.

We start with a Super Bowl Primer, if you will. Back in 1999, I decided to send letters and cards out to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and San Diego Chargers QB Jim Harbaugh. Both guys responded. Lewis, of course, is retiring following the Super Bowl after a killer career (pun intended). Harbaugh is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Lewis autograph is a little smudged, mostly because the old Pacific card sets needed to be rubbed down heavily with baby powder, a trick I didn't learn until later. Harbaugh's autograph is immaculate, don't you think?

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