Meet the Author

Meet Kevin Keating

Kevin Keating is a lifetime autograph collector and now works as the principal autograph authenticator for Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), a subsidiary of Collectors Universe (NASDAQ: CLCT).

Kevin Keating has been collecting baseball autographs since the age of ten.  By the time he graduated from Harry D. Jacobs High School (Algonquin, IL) in 1977, his collection numbered more than 10,000 signatures.  Keating went on to graduate from the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY, 1982) where he finished first in his class in Chinese language, and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (Washington, DC, 2002). And he had also lived in Japan with his family from 1966-68, attending a Japanese school and attaining fluency in the written and spoken language at a 3rd grade level.  Keating credits much of his aptitude for autograph authentication to his Japanese and Chinese language exposure and studies, and the visual memorization of written characters both languages required.

He served in the US Army from 1982-88 where he attended Airborne and Ranger schools, and he commanded Charlie Company, 2d of the 2d Infantry Battalion (1986-87). After departing military service, Keating took a job with a pharmaceutical company, and he also renewed his autograph collecting, something he had put on hold since high school.  By then, the innocent hobby he had known in his youth had transformed into an industry, opening many new doors for him.  He began to purchase autographs of long-deceased baseball legends that he had only dreamed of owning as a child, funding many of those purchases by selling off some of the duplicates he had acquired in his youth. He also befriended several baseball greats, including Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Chuck Connors, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Sewell, Johnny Mize, and Bob Feller.  As an extension of his collecting pursuits, he founded, which eventually became his full-time business (from 1999-2016).

Keating’s written works include a baseball-themed screenplay (Catching Jo, coauthored with Alan Czarnowsky), which earned first place in the 2013 All-Sports Los Angeles Film Festival; numerous published articles on autographs and related topics; and a book, The Negro Leagues Autograph Guide (Landmark Books, 1999, coauthored with Michael Kolleth).  He has appeared on television and radio shows as a guest expert on baseball autographs and forgeries and has been frequently interviewed and quoted in print and online media, including The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Examiner, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, U.S.A. Today, Baseball Weekly, Forbes Collector, The Houston Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Weekly Standard, The Federalist, and (a feature blog).

Keating has served as the autograph agent for Warren Spahn and Whitey Ford and was featured in Washingtonian Magazine (May 2009); he was the autograph authenticator for the ABC television show Ballboys, and he also appeared with Paul Gleason in Gleason’s last movie, The Book of Caleb (released in 2008).

He has provided authentication and/or appraisal services for nationally known auction companies and other private and government organizations, including the Washington Nationals baseball team, the White House, and many private collections.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation  has consulted him on various matters related to suspected forgers, notably, for example, to testify as an expert witness during the well-publicized investigation known as Operation Bullpen.

Now the Principal Authenticator for Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA, a subsidiary of Collectors Universe traded on the NASDAQ: CLCT), Keating has been called on to authenticate a wide universe of autograph material, including such treasures as 15th-century documents of Spanish Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella; Mozart’s sheet music; all US presidents; many signers of the US declaration of Independence; Norman Rockwell paintings; Voltaire; Einstein; The Beatles; Neil Armstrong; John Wayne; and Bruce Springsteen.  His favorite authenticated item to date is Jackie Robinson’s 1947 rookie year major-league contract. In Keating’s words:  “Its importance is not only to baseball, but also to our country because  Jackie Robinson’s courage in breaking baseball’s color barrier arguably gave birth to the 20th century Civil Rights movement.”

He resides with his wife and two children in Alexandria, Virginia.

  • Joe DiMaggio

    (Born November 25, 1914, Martinez, California – Died March 8, 1999, Hollywood, Florida)

    “I’ll be happy to sign your photo.”

    Of the many players who signed through the mail in my youth, Joe DiMaggio was arguably the most iconic. As if his records, championships, and marriage to Marilyn Monroe were not enough, Simon and Garfunkel further immortalized the legend in one of my favorite songs, Mrs. Robinson, with the unforgettable line, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio…?”

    In fact, Joe had gone back to his native California, where he retired from baseball.

    I sent him a request with some items to sign, and to my surprise and delight he signed EVERYTHING I sent! Like countless other fans, I couldn’t get enough of Joe, so I repeated the process, sending him between five and ten items each time. The average turnaround back then for less famous Hall of Famers was about two weeks. But Joe’s return rate was dependably swift, usually within seven days. I found this remarkable, especially for someone of his stature, whose mail I surmised, was probably mountainous—not to mention other demands on his time. Still, by the time I left high school my collection boasted 70+ Joe DiMaggio autographs, more than any other player, and included one of my favorite pieces.

    In those days, getting high-quality images for signing was not easy, but I managed to find a gorgeous black-and-white 8” x 10” glossy photograph of Joe, which I bought for $1.00. The cost was no small sum for me, but I knew my investment would become a priceless possession once Joe added his name to it. I wasted no time sending it off with a special request for him to sign and personalize it to me. Like a boomerang, it was returned a few days later, beautifully signed with the sentiment, “To Kevin Best Wishes Joe DiMaggio.” It was instantly one of my most prized keepsakes, especially because Joe had personalized the image just as I had requested.

    Or did he?

    Years later, around 1990, I read that Joe DiMaggio had stopped answering his fan mail decades earlier, and the duty of signing Joe’s name to the endless stream of material that fans like me had been sending all that time was outsourced to his sister, Marie. Not surprisingly, the article stated that the chore of signing autographs for her brother was a “full-time” occupation. Marie was not only diligent in returning those items to their unwitting and thankful recipients as fast as a Joe D line-drive, she was also reasonably good at replicating his rather unremarkable writing style.

    Could it be that my coveted collection of Joe D material was, in fact, a hoard of “Marie DiMaggio” autographs masquerading as the Yankee Clipper’s? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

    The possibility prompted my first in-depth analysis of a player’s writing. Using samples I knew to be signed in person compared to those obtained through the mail (including my entire boyhood stockpile), I noticed subtle but distinct differences and consistent distinctions between the two groups. The examination was revealing, and my verdict was as disappointing as it was conclusive: Marie DiMaggio was the creator of all the “Joe DiMaggio” autographs I had received through the mail. Joe signed none of them, including my prized 8”x10”!

    Joe’s ghost autograph signed by his sister, Marie DiMaggio.

    This episode introduced me to the terms “ghost signed” and “secretarial” autographs. Neither are genuine as represented, but are instead nonmalicious forgeries created by a person who is authorized to sign someone else’s name. Both terms are often used interchangeably, since the signer in both cases is empowered to produce a nonauthentic signature. Forgeries, of course, are also nonauthentic signatures. Unlike their aforementioned counterparts, however, a forgery is unauthorized and created with malicious intent to deceive and/or defraud a third party.

    Forgers also do their best to mimic the autograph they try to replicate. A designated ghost signer may or may not attempt to copy the genuine signature style they are authorized to sign. Whether or not Marie consciously attempted to duplicate Joe’s signature, she was good at it. So good, in fact, that some of her work is still bought and sold today as her brother’s genuine autograph.

    Continue reading...

    "Kevin Keating's love of baseball has a purity that matches its longevity. It has brought him into charming contacts with many of the sport's greatest stars. To read his charming stories is to experience first love a second time."
    - George F. Will, Author, Men at Work

    Waiting for a Sign Volume One

Sneak a Peek of Waiting for a Sign

Here is the enviable life story of this baseball superfan recounted in a mosaic of never-before-told stories resulting from his many autograph encounters and friendships made with some of the game’s biggest stars.

“Kevin’s absolute passion for baseball goes so far beyond mere fandom. He is a true historian. His love of the game is so pure that all these guys LOVED talking to him and sharing their stories. There is something of that little boy waiting outside of Wrigley Field for another chance encounter with his heroes that is so present in every story of this wonderful collection. Really delightful!”

– Kelly Coffield Park, Actress (Field of Dreams, Jerry Maguire, In Living Color)