Benny Montgomery knew it would be difficult to autograph the thousands of baseball cards sent to him by card manufacturers. As an outfield prospect drafted No. 8 overall by the Colorado Rockies in the 2021 MLB draft, he inked endorsement deals with Topps, Panini, Onyx and Leaf and was required to sign every card sent to him.
Signing thousands of cards over and over can get monotonous and, as Montgomery describes it, mind-numbing. Through his contract with the four companies, he's required to sign certain cards and get them back to each company in a certain timeframe.
Montgomery had gotten bored after signing a few hundred cards and decided to write a different name on one of them. He's a fan of the Borat movies, so he signed the card as Borat and sent a picture to his agent.
"I realized people don't do this, so I was surprised by that because it seemed like a creative way to show your personality," Montgomery said.
He never showed anyone else and didn't think it would ever be a big deal, but collectors started to gain interest in his signature, so he thought he'd break this out and post it on social media to see their reaction.
I was wondering when I'd have to clear that up. I'm just waiting for this one to get pulled....😭😳 pic.twitter.com/edO8L2cLYa— Benny Montgomery (@benny_mont) January 28, 2022
The reason collectors were interested, though, was not because he was the No. 8 draft pick, but rather that he had become part of a conspiracy theory.
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As some of his cards started to circulate, fans noticed two different versions of his autograph, which sent card hobbyists into investigative mode with theories that his mom was signing a fancier version of his autograph for him.
The rumors and questions spread to Montgomery, who eventually squashed the rumors by showing through video that he does, in fact, have good handwriting and two different signatures.
"They thought that my mom was helping me sign, which is why the one was better than the other," Montgomery said. "I remember one guy was like, 'Well, we got to stop letting prospects moms sign these cards.' They thought I was faking it. So, in response, I was bored that day [in] the offseason, so I took a video of me signing two cards, one my regular way and one of my fancier way and posted it. So, it was basically me replicating each signature because those were my signatures."
The video caught on with fans and sparked a whole new adventure for Montgomery.
Surprisingly, Montgomery said he didn't tell his mom about what had happened. She's not on social media, so there is a good chance that she has no idea she was smack dab in the middle of a card collecting controversy.
"She couldn't care less about social media, so I wouldn't be surprised if she had no idea," Montgomery said. "She might be flattered that somebody thought my signature was her's, but I'm not sure."
Once Signaturegate was solved and people knew it wasn't his mom signing his cards, Montgomery decided to keep having fun and engaging with card collectors who paid attention to the mini-saga.
"Everybody thought the signature video was funny and I was like, 'Oh, I have that Borat picture, so let's put that in this thread,'" Montgomery said. "I said I was waiting for one of them to find this, thinking nothing would happen with it and from there it just went viral."
The Borat signature was on a card numbered 10 of 150, meaning there are only 150 of that particular card. The unique signature made it somewhat of a one of one, though, as the other 149 would be signed with his real signature.
Montgomery saw how much people enjoyed the variation and decided he would keep going. He signed one card as Benny and the Jets and drew a mustache on his picture.
He then wrote "Sign here" on another card where the signature was supposed to be.
He even signed one card with a Braille version of his name at the request of one of his followers.
"I waited a month or two when I got a new Topps shipment and the Benny and the Jets one was a little bit more elaborate than my Borat one," Montgomery said. "That one got even more views, because people were starting to expect it now."
Montgomery kept going, but once again found himself in a controversial situation when he and fellow prospect Jordan Lawlar, who is part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, decided to sign the other's name on their cards. Benny signed his own card as Lawlar and vice versa.
While funny, it has potential issues with authenticity and ensuring the autograph is real. Signing a nickname was one thing, but signing another player's name was something that caught the attention of Topps, who makes the cards he was signing.
"Topps, I know they weren't thrilled about it," Montgomery said. "After we did that they talked to me and said I can't do that. I guess it was a conflict of interest, so I'm not banned from doing it, but I'm chilling out from that standpoint."
Not every card manufacturer took issue with it, though, as Onyx sent Montgomery a set of cards and asked him to do whatever he wanted with the cards. He doesn't know if the Topps cards with alternate signatures will ever make it to fans' hands, but he's hopeful they'll get put into circulation. He's also hoping he will get the opportunity to continue showing his creative side and engaging with fans while being unique with a mundane, monotonous task.
"You can basically turn a card that would have 100 or 200 of them and I can make it a one of one," Montgomery said. "I think it reaches out to fans and gives me some personality and does good things with that. It makes the card much more valuable, people were putting bounties on the Borat card, so I'd like to keep doing it."