Wednesday, October 25, 2017

AOL - bringing fans and athletes together over the magical internet

In the summer of 1997, we finally got AOL at my house. Laugh now, but early-AOL was the coolest.

Eventually I stumbled upon newsgroups (I think that’s what they were called?) and forums, and even found a baseball card group where I could buy cards.

AOL had some features once in a while where you could chat with a pro baseball player. I remember Brad Ausmus being online under the screen name “Ausmus11”. Pretty cool.

Eventually, I found some TTM sites, and among those, some collectors described instances where you didn’t even need to send an actual letter – you could just email an address and receive an autograph in the mail. Autographs starting pouring in to my house of people I had never even heard of. Looking back, it was weird and I went overboard, but it was fun getting mail nearly every day simply by emailing celebrities and fan clubs.

However, there were some athletes who did this as well. One of those players was Mike Lieberthal of the Phillies. I believe you could send an email to his fan club address, and you’d get an autograph back in the mail. Pretty cool! And it worked! I got a signed photo and a card back. 
This type of thing didn’t really take off for athletes, and rightfully so. There are still some college athletics departments that send back signed photos of coaches via email request, which is cool in its own right. But I don’t blame players and fan clubs for never really getting on board with this, as it undoubtedly could become overwhelming very quickly.

Still, it's cool to have some autographs from the late ‘90s that were obtained by simply sending an email.


  1. The first thing I did in 1998 when I got the Internet and AOL was go on those card groups to trade as much as possible. Maybe we crossed paths without even knowing so !

  2. I remember doing this for Jason Kidd's fanclub. I was so excited the day I got a 4x6 photo signed by him arrived.

  3. That's cool. We didn't get internet at home until 2000, and I joined message boards within a few months. Been kicking around them ever since. Roughly 90% of all my Facebook interactions are with friends I made on message boards.

  4. My family dabbled with AOL and Prodigy in the early 90's, before sticking with AOL. The AOL Message Boards were a great place to trade cards. That was my first experience with online trading. Good times.