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David Carroll’s News and Notes: The Cursive Comeback

David Carroll

I just saw a TV commercial for an “Atlanta Braves 2023 All-Star Game Bat.” For $139, you get a baseball bat signed by the eight Braves who were selected to the All-Star game.

I wanted to take a closer look at the bat, so I went online to examine it. Just as I had suspected, the eight player autographs are illegible. I have no doubts the signatures are authentic. I just can’t read them. Thankfully, the players’ names are printed underneath each signature.

Austin Riley’s autograph is apparently a capital A and what appears to be an R. Spencer Strider’s signature includes a couple of S’s and I’m not sure what else. All of the others are made up of squiggly lines that may or may not include letters that are in their name. I bet at least one of them is proficient in cursive writing, but how would it look to be the only one who signs their name legibly? Kids might look at it and say, “What’s up with THIS guy?”

I’m not knocking the players. They are asked to write their names many times a day, during each interaction with fans. They can’t take the time to win penmanship awards by writing on baseballs, the backs of t-shirts, and used napkins. So they’re accustomed to hurriedly scrawling their name within a 2-second time frame.

It’s also possible that many of them never learned cursive writing. Only 21 states require it as part of their curriculum, some with lax enforcement. It’s simply not a priority in today’s keyboard world, and it hasn’t been for the past 20 years.

As soon as I saw that All-Star bat, I had a flashback to my youth. My first bat was a Louisville Slugger signed by Ernie Banks. I was 9 years old, and I had just attended my first Atlanta Braves game. From that moment on, I was crazy for baseball, so my family got me that bat. I didn’t know who Ernie Banks was, but his signature was crisp and clear. I figured he must be a big deal to have his name on a bat. I soon learned that he was a star player with the Chicago Cubs, known for his big smile and his love for the game. His famous quote was, “What a great day for a ballgame, let’s play two!” I’ve repeated that line many times.

(By the way, you can buy that original Ernie Banks Louisville Slugger bat on Ebay for $3,500. I wish I had kept mine.)

Each week I receive correspondence from readers. I respond to each one. E-mails are quick, easy, and much appreciated. But I am especially fond of handwritten letters. They often begin with an apology: “I don’t have a computer, so please excuse my handwriting.” In almost every case, the handwriting is flawless. I can tell they are written by people who attended school when the written word truly meant something. Every word counted. Good penmanship and punctuation signified more than just a letter grade on one’s report card. It was also a source of pride.

Many of my young twentysomething friends, most with college degrees, freely admit they never learned cursive writing and have difficulty reading it as well. Often, they will ask me for someone’s phone number. “Do you have the sheriff’s cell number?” “Do you have a number for the mayor?”

I always have a notepad, and I will find the number on my phone, write it down, and hand them the note. They seem disappointed that I didn’t just “message” them on their phone. They look at the note like it’s a stone tablet.

My educator friends seem evenly divided on a potential cursive comeback. One told me, “It’s hard for me to convince kids it’s important, when I only use cursive to write a check.”

But another praised the benefits of taking notes in cursive. “It benefits your comprehension and recall,” she said.

Is cursive writing doomed to be another relic from the past? It seems very likely. But I’m holding on to it, like I wish I had held on to that Ernie Banks bat.