UPDATED: Paul Goldschmidt at Winter Warm-Up: Problems with Autograph Contracts




UPDATE 1/10/2019 at 12:00 PM CT:


I have spoken with the St. Louis Cardinals Front Office who has confirmed that the issue related to the problem below emanated from an Third-Party Exclusive Autograph Contract which failed to name the St. Louis Cardinals as an exception. Unfortunately, Cardinals Care themselves were unable to solve the problem, thus the e-mail below was sent.


However, as of early this morning, Paul Goldschmidt and the Cardinals are committed to ensuring this problem is rectified, and the following is what will occur:


(1) all actual Goldschmidt Autograph Ticket Holders will be permitted to obtain an autograph -- once again -- on any item they bring to Winter Warm-Up. Additionally, the 8 x 10 Picture Card described below will be available for ticket holders if they wish to have that item autographed as their one any-item autograph..


(2) all Original Goldschmidt Autograph Ticket Holders (tickets purchased on 12/10/2018) will still have the opportunity to keep their ticket (with the new no restriction clarification) or obtain a refund regardless of their choice made yesterday or the day before.


(3) all Secondary Goldschmidt Autograph Ticket Holders (tickets purchased on 1/9/2019) will receive an actual Goldschmidt Autograph Ticket -- in order of priority based on timing of sale -- only if Original Ticket Holders confirm a refund.


by Adam Van Grack -- St. Louis, MO, January 10, 2019


On December 7, 2018, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the acquisition of 6x All-Star Paul Goldschmidt with much fanfare. On the same day, the team announced that Paul Goldschmidt would attend the team’s annual pre-season celebration to support the team’s charity: The Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up. One of the highlights of the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up is fans being able to obtain "autograph tickets" to meet the team’s players and obtain the autograph of that player on any item of the fan's choosing. People have famously brought everything from Busch Stadium Seats to 3-foot tall Bobbleheads to be autographed. As soon as they were available on December 10th, Winter Warm-up "autograph tickets" for Paul Goldschmidt (selling for $100 each) were sold out in minutes.


However, on January 8, 2018, all people who were lucky enough to purchase an autograph ticket for Paul Goldschmidt received the following e-mail from the St. Louis Cardinals.



Essentially, due to a “pre-existing contractual agreement”, fans at Winter Warm-Up would only be able to obtain Paul Goldschmidt’s autograph on the following pre-printed, photo card:


No other items would be permitted to be presented to Paul Goldschmidt by fans with an already-purchased "autograph ticket." Fortunately, Cardinals Care permitted fans to receive a full refund instead; however, fans must notify Cardinals Care by Friday, January 11, 2019 about their intent to obtain a refund. Refunded Paul Goldschmidt tickets were immediately placed back for sale yesterday, and now the purchase includes the following conditions:

What is this “pre-existing contractual agreement”?

Why is this autograph restriction now being put in place by Cardinals Care?


In today’s sports memorabilia world, professional athletes often sign exclusive autograph appearance contracts with sports companies. These contracts give a sports memorabilia company the exclusive right to hold events where an athlete signs autographs – and no other entity can hold an appearance with that athlete to sign autographs. As long as there exists proper compensation (i.e., consideration to the athlete), these autograph exclusive contracts are legal. Nonetheless, baseball teams are aware that these exclusive contracts exists; therefore, baseball teams (including the Cardinals) often instruct all their players to make sure that the team’s own events (such as Winter Warm-Up or stadium events for the team) are specifically excluded from any exclusivity restriction. In fact, some baseball teams often mandate such a requirement in their own contracts with players.


Most likely, Paul Goldschmidt had previously entered into one of these exclusive autograph appearance contracts with a sports memorabilia company. Also, most likely, Paul Goldschmidt’s autograph appearance contract almost certainly excludes the Arizona Diamondbacks’ events from the restriction (after all, Paul did appear at previous D-Backs FanFest without restrictions); however, St. Louis Cardinals events are almost certainly absent as an exception within his appearance contract (as neither party could have predicted a trade to St. Louis at the time).


Presumably, the Cardinals/Cardinals Care attempted to work with the company which (likely) holds the autograph appearance contract with Paul Goldschmidt to obtain an exception. However, contract enforcement is a civil right, is enforceable by all parties, and the Cardinals -- as a third party -- cannot simply demand that the contract be ignored. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the e-mail above, that company has likely refused to play ball (possibly demanding a huge payment to permit Paul Goldschmidt to sign any item for Cardinals fans). Thus, the Cardinals sent out the e-mail above – making the best of a bad situation – because through some language in the contract (or a negotiated narrow exception) pre-printed, photo cards with a logo are permitted to be autographed. Additionally, the Cardinals have been directly calling all people who purchased a Paul Goldschmidt autograph ticket informing them of their options: (1) retain the ticket to obtain the autographed photo card shown above, or (2) obtain a full refund. Such a direct contact plan of action is the right move.


Ultimately, this confusing situation is an unfortunate byproduct of the commercialization of sports memorabilia. While it is disappointing -- and should have been addressed prior to the sale of any Paul Goldschmidt autograph tickets -- it is a finite situation. More importantly, however, regardless of the disappointment of the inability of Cardinals Fans to obtain their own personal items autographed by Paul Goldschmidt at Winter Warm-Up, Paul will still be (1) attending the event, (2) greeting all fans with a ticket, and (3) autographing some item for fans. And, most importantly, Cardinals Fans will still be able to watch Paul Goldschmidt smashing balls at Busch Stadium (and throughout the National League) in only a few months.

Through Law & Batting Order, Adam Van Grack evaluates rules, decisions, and legal issues related to baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. Adam Van Grack is an attorney at the law firm of Longman & Van Grack, LLC practicing litigation, business law, and sports law. Adam is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals having attended Washington University in St. Louis for college and law school. Adam has been previously appointed as the Chair of a U.S. Olympic National Governing Body.