The most successful single-game promotion in baseball? The venerable bobblehead, a sure way to draw fans to the ballpark. Here's a look at how MLB and MiLB teams are putting new twists on an old dependable this season. Bobbleheads are a guaranteed way to bring fans through the turnstyles for both MLB and MiLB teams, but it’s not just enough to base a bobblehead on a player and declaring victory. More and more teams are looking for a twist on the ‘head, whether it be a distant cousin — like a gnome — or a bobblehead from outside the world of baseball. Here’s a look at how teams are giving away bobbleheads for the 2010 season.
The San Francisco Giants threatened to make bobblehead history when they announced a Tim Lincecum bobblehead featuring real hair. Now, there are some good reasons for skepticism of this claim: real hair is actually quite expensive (just ask any good wigmaker) — much too expensive to be used as part of a freebie. Also, the whole notion of a bobblehead with real hair is, well, creepy.
Turns out the tweeters with the Giants were a little premature in their claims of free hair: yes, there will be hair, but synthetic hair. Which is still pretty cool. Note to Dodgers fans: Remove the head from the body and you’ll have your own Tim Lincecum voodoo head.
Alas, not every team has a star like Lincecum for a bobblehead promotion. The Baltimore Orioles are releasing a Nolan Reimold bobblehead on May 26. Yup, that Nolan Reimold. One hopes he can crack the starting lineup that game. Similarly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have scheduled a Andrew McCutchen bobblehead for Aug. 6; given his slow start we hope he’s still with the team by then. Most likely to be around: Oakland A’s PA announcer Roy Steele, who will be honored by the team with an April 17 bobblehead. Steele has been the ballpark voice of the team since it moved from Kansas City in 1968. PA announcer bobblehead giveaways are more common than you’d think: the Charleston RiverDogs (Low Class A; Sally League) honored Ken Carrington in 2008 and the Giants honored Renel Brooks-Moon that same year with her own bobblehead. Another cool bobblehead: Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust will be honored on Sept. 18 with her own statue.
More and more teams are reaching out beyond the diamond for bobblehead honorees. In Maryland, the Frederick Keys (High Class A; Carolina League) have scheduled a Bryan Voltaggio bobblehead night for July 27. Who is Brian Voltaggio? If you wanted Bravo’s Top Chef, you’d know he was runner-up (to his brother, no less) during the most recent season. He owns and runs a restaurant, Volt, in downtown Frederick. As part of the festivities Voltaggio will be running a charity concession stand at the ballpark.
We’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s worth noting here: The Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have scheduled a May 22 Lewis and Clark bobblehead giveaway.
The best bobblehead story of the year, alas, was not real. On April 1 the Lowell Spinners (short season; NY-Penn League) announced the team was honoring Yankee greats with a series of bobbleheads in 2010. Here’s the press release:
The Lowell Spinners, Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, announced today their highly anticipated bobble head themed series for the 2010 season, set to honor a series of great moments and legends in New York Yankees history.
The Spinners, known for their anti-Yankee approach to promotions, are turning the tables on their popular Yankee Elimination Promotion to honor great moments in the Red Sox arch-rival’s history.
“Over the past decade we’ve done bobble heads of everyone from Pesky to Williams to Papelbon and Youkilis,” said Spinners Vice President of Communications Jon Goode. “We’ve exhausted all of our alumni currently playing for the Red Sox, so after years of contentious phone calls and e-mails in response to our Yankee Elimination Promotion, we opted to stay the baseball route with great Yankees moments. We are excited to honor the greatest rivalry in all of sports.”
The Spinners will salute baseball’s greatest winner, Derek Jeter, July 1, when the first 1,000 fans will receive a bobble head commemorating Jeter’s memorable catch made the same date in 2004, as Jeter sacrificed his body diving headfirst into the stands to snare a pop fly against the Red Sox.
“It is one of the all-time memorable plays in the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry,” said Goode. “Add in the respect we have for Jeter and this was a no-brainer.”
The Spinners will next turn to July 8 when the hero of the Yankees 1978 one-game playoff, Bucky Dent, is honored with a pinstriped bobble.
The series will continue with back-to-back bobble heads July 31, as the Spinners remember the 2003 trading deadline acquisition for the Yankees of Aaron Boone, and August 1, as we look back at Thurman Munson on the anniversary of his epic fight with Carlton Fisk.
The tribute will conclude during the Spinners three-game home stand August 28-30 when the defending New York-Penn League Champion Staten Island Yankees come to town.
In addition to a reversible Yankees World Series/NYPL Championship Banner giveaway on Aug. 28, the Spinners will conclude the series with bobble heads of former Staten Island Yankee Robinson Cano Aug. 29 and baseball legend Babe Ruth Aug. 30.
“We hope our great fans will show appreciation for these great moments in baseball history,” said Goode. “We know our fans treasure each bobble head and we hope these are no different.”
Spinners’ bobble heads are some of the most popular collector’s items in the industry, highlighted by the team’s Jack Kerouac Bobble Head displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Of course, it was a great April Fools' joke: the team has been crusading for years to rid New England of Yankees — New York Yankees, that is — to the point of offering Little League teams cold, hard cash to dump Yankee caps and uniforms.
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