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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

March 15, 2001|LARRY STEWART

What: "Sign This"

Author: Tom Bunevich

Publisher: T & S

Price: $14.95

Why autographs are such a big deal is hard for some to understand, and that fans will actually pay for autographs is mind-boggling. But there is no denying collecting autographs is big business.

The author, Tom Bunevich, a former journalist, promoted sports collectible shows in central Florida from 1983-97, during which time he hired more than 300 athletes to sign autographs for money. Bunevich estimates he sold more than $2 million worth of autographed tickets and items. He says he got out of the business because athletes kept wanting more money.

The 200-page book, obviously not intended for intellectuals, is overly simplistic at times and starts off with a dull overview of the business. Things pick up somewhat by Chapter 4, "My Top Ten Jerks." Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson top Bunevich's list.

Bunevich is particularly hard on some of the black athletes who began their pro careers in the 1950s, namely baseball's Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey, Bob Gibson and the NBA's Bill Russell. But at least he offers an excuse for what he sees as their callousness. "My theory is that this hardened attitude may be due to the years of racial taunts and torment," he writes.

Chapter 5, "My Top Ten Good Guys," has Brooks Robinson and Harmon Killebrew at the top of his list.

Information: (813) 818-8000, or http://www.signthisbook.com.

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