World leaders sign baseballs In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, autographed baseballs signed by Democratic and Republican presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and their running mates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, are on display in Garden City, N.Y., at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)
World leaders sign baseballs
Lexile

Move over Mantle and Mays. Make room for Mandela and Gorbachev.
 
Randy Kaplan has spent the past two decades tracking down world leaders for their signatures on baseballs. It is a quirky melding of memorabilia and history that has resulted in an impressive collection of more than 200 autographs from presidents, prime ministers, two kings and the Dalai Lama.
 
"It's been a passion, a labor of love and an obsession," says the 50-year-old Kaplan. He lives in Garden City, N.Y.  He is a lifelong collector whose day job is in government affairs for a real estate trade group.
 
It began almost as a fluke in 1996. That's when he positioned himself outside a speech and got President Bill Clinton to sign a ball. The next day, Republican Sen. Robert Dole appeared at the same event. He signed a ball and Kaplan was on his way.
 
Through the years, he has collected balls from Israeli President Shimon Peres, Vicente Fox of Mexico, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and some leaders who had no clue what a baseball even was.
 
One of his proudest moments came when Mikhail Gorbachev signed a ball during the former Soviet leader's short U.S. book tour in the late 1990s.
 
"He stands up, smiles, pushes the security guard away, takes the ball, sits down and signs it. That was amazing," says Kaplan. His baseballs, along with bats signed by every living U.S. president, are on display through the presidential election (and the baseball playoffs). They can be seen at Long Island's Cradle of Aviation Museum.
 
Timely features of the exhibit are signed balls from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They share a display case.
 
Kaplan declined to put a price tag on the collection. He said it reflected countless hours of work. He staked out world leaders on visits to the United Nations, at speeches and other public events. Other times, he networks with friends through his business. Or he will write to ambassadors, asking them for signed baseballs.
 
Pope Francis has not signed a ball. But Kaplan has gotten signatures from about 20 cardinals who may someday ascend to the papacy. He says he does his homework. He has gotten signatures of a country's lower-ranking political officials before they become president or prime minister.
 
Who remains on his wish list? One is former Cuban President Fidel Castro, a known baseball fanatic. Britain's Prince Charles is another. And Kaplan's holy grail of signed balls is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
"Toughest signature on the planet," he says.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the autographs collected on baseballs instead of some other object?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (66)
  • abyrd-wim
    10/21/2016 - 11:40 a.m.

    There was more tan 200 autograph baseballs and Randy Kaplan isn't stopping there. He wishes to get the former Cuban President, Fidel Castro. Kaplan also wants to get Pope Francis to sign one but he hasn't yet, instead he has gotten around 20 cardinals. This started as a fluke when 1996. That's when he put himself outside a speech and got President Bill Clinton to sign a ball. The next day, Republican Sen. Robert Dole appeared at the same event and Kaplan got him to sign one too, Kaplan was on his way. Kaplan didn't want to sell his collection. He said it reflected long periods of time of work. He get out world leaders on visits to the United States, at speeches and other public events. Other times, he would work with his friends through his business, or he will write to ambassadors, asking them for signed baseballs, and around a month he would get a signed baseball from the person he asked to sign one.

  • jthom-wim
    10/21/2016 - 11:41 a.m.

    I Think this is a very odd idea? what would people benefit from this?

  • wcarl5-sam
    10/21/2016 - 11:46 a.m.

    There is more autographs on baseballs because mostly everyone has baseball in there life and not much else.

  • rmere-wim
    10/21/2016 - 12:39 p.m.

    The autographs were collected on baseballs instead of any other object because they are easy to transfer around from place to place. Also most people get autographs on baseballs so that's probably another reason he choose baseballs instead of any other object.

  • hwill-wim
    10/21/2016 - 12:52 p.m.

    They were collected on baseballs because they are easy to sign and he can get a lot of them. They are also easy to preserve because cases are cheap. Also he Is a collector so he must have baseball's signed by MLB players and he must like the way they look.

  • lbryant5-sam
    10/21/2016 - 12:55 p.m.

    Bill Clinton signed a baseball for Kaplan and a U.S senator happened to be there the next day and signed another ball.So it was technically just luck.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    10/21/2016 - 01:20 p.m.

    Baseballs are an easy way to store autographs. Also, it is sorta iconic to the sport and everyone gets a ball signed, so they did it for the world leaders.

  • alexisa1-pel
    10/24/2016 - 12:02 p.m.

    Autograph were collected on baseballs instead of something else because baseballs are easier to put up and not get broke in a case with the autograph on it,but anything else might break or something might happen to it.

  • willa-pel
    10/24/2016 - 12:04 p.m.

    The autographs were signed on baseballs because the most common thing you would want to get is a baseball at a baseball game when the hit a home run.

  • willb1-pel
    10/24/2016 - 12:11 p.m.

    they were all on the baseball because some of the famous people played baseball

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