The National #7 | Big-Name Signers on Tap

Over 150 Athletes/Entertainers to be in Attendance

Date: Jun 27, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Albert Pujols, Calvin Johnson, Card Culture, Cleveland, Education, Greg Bates, News, Sammy Sosa, The National
Length: 864 Words
Reading Time: ~5 Minutes

Enjoy our seventh story in a series to help collectors prepare for the 44th annual National Sports Collectors Convention, which will be held in Cleveland from July 24 to 28. We will introduce a new topic each week leading up to the show.

This week, we look at the big-name athletes and entertainers who will be signing at the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion. Don’t miss next week’s story, where we talk to dealers who have set up for The National for four decades and have watched the convention grow exponentially since its start in 1980.

Jeff Rosenberg makes it his mission every year to assemble the best names in sports and entertainment to sign at the National Sports Collectors Convention.

The owner/CEO of TRISTAR Productions might have lined up his finest show ever for this year’s event in Cleveland.

The lineup is packed with over 150 on-site signers, 33 of whom will be making their first appearance at The National in the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion.

“It’s an impressive list,” said Steve Grad, principal authenticator at Beckett Authentication Services. “They’ve got a lot of good names every year. I think The Nationals in the past have had 50 guys, 60 guys. At The National, you’ve got the dealers and you’ve got the corporate, but also you’ve got a select number of people who come just for the autographs and that’s it.”

TRISTAR Productions has been running the Autograph Pavilion since 2004. The company always tries to get a good mix of athletes to attract every kind of autograph seeker.

“Our team has just done an incredible job to give a broad array of talent, highlighted by guys like Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa. They are tremendous 500 home run guys, or in the case of Pujols 700 home runs and Sosa 600,” Rosenberg said. “I’m pretty excited for those guys. And Sosa being his first ever National appearance.”

First-Time Signers

One big goal for Rosenberg in lining up autograph guests is to attract first-time signers. This year, he also wanted to include as many players as possible who belong to an exclusive baseball fraternity.

“We always like to have new blood, so to speak, coming to sign,” Rosenberg said. “The 500 home run hitters was something that was important to me. When you’re looking at that group and you’re talking about guys like Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Reggie Jackson, that’s a pretty good list of 500.”

From the football spectrum, there will be some standout names in attendance. According to Grad, Alan Faneca doesn’t sign very much, and Edgerrin James and Chad Johnson don’t pop up at shows too often. All three NFLers will be first-time signers at The National.

“Being a sports fan myself, I’m pretty pumped to see guys like Calvin Johnson, Edgerrin James — guys that just don’t hit the show circuit too often,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg believes Pujols, Sosa, and Johnson will be three of the biggest draws for autograph collectors. Other big-name players that are making return trips to sign at The National include Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dan Marino, Cal Ripken Jr., Bo Jackson, and Julius Erving. With Pittsburgh just a couple-hour drive from Cleveland, Rosenberg expects Troy Polamalu to be a popular player for autographs.  

Another first-time signer to The National who is creating some buzz is Penny Hardaway. The former NBA star and current Memphis men’s basketball coach is still a popular former athlete.

“He hasn’t done many shows,” Grad said. “It’s weird with some of these guys, they stay kind of down low and don’t do much. (Allen) Iverson had retired years ago and didn’t do much, and then all of a sudden, he came out of the woodwork and started doing convention appearances and signings. Hardaway’s been the same way where he started doing a bunch of signings recently.”

More Than Just Athletes

Along with a solid list of athletes, Rosenberg wanted to expand the number of entertainers signing at the show. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” stars Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid add a nice dimension to the autograph list.

“I think a lot of collectors will cross over from athletes into the entertainment genre, especially because of the whole ‘Vacation’ movie phenomenon,” Rosenberg said. “I think we kind of have something for everyone.

“We’ve got the ’99 U.S. women’s soccer team with Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm being two of the big names from that group. And then Cheryl Miller, someone I’ve never seen at a show. First National appearance, I’m excited. We’ve got a pretty diverse lineup.”

For a complete list of autograph signers and information about ticketing, head to TRISTAR Productions’ website. More signers could be announced in the weeks leading up to The National, so stay tuned.

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