A definitive (and highly subjective)
Before we launch into your long-awaited ranking of the 2014 American League teams’ bobblehead giveaways, a bit of housekeeping…
First, I have to admit that I’ve been going off this preseason list of bobbleheads, for the simple reason that I saved some hours of work doing it that way. But the result was that I missed at least one “added” bobblehead in my National League rankings – which I recommend reading if you haven’t already, if only so you understand my criteria here – and it was a good one: on the 12th of August, the Pirates gave away these Honus Wagner bobbleheads. It doesn’t actually look much like Wagner, which is strange because he’s got a distinctive face. But that’s somewhat balanced by the absence of a garish endorsement sitting atop the base (which ruins a great many bobbles, at least until you’ve amputated the advertisement and made the appropriate repairs).
Second, the National League absolutely killed the American League in bobbleheads last season. Including ol’ Honus and Tony La Russa’s bobble with the A’s in August, but not anyone else I might have missed, the N.L. clubs hosted 84 bobble-centric promotions … and the A.L. clubs only 54. And the Junior Circuit gives away fewer bobbles when they do have the promotions. It’s strange, really. I can’t think of a reason for this huge difference. But last year, the Rockies, the Brewers, and the Dodgers all hosted at least 10 giveaways, while the Yankees led the American League with only six (and as we’ll see, only four of those were actually baseball-related).
Weak, American League. Really weak. In this regard, at least, you deserve to be called the Junior Circuit. And you’ve made this half of my two-half series not nearly as much fun as the first half.
Detroit Tigers. Big crowds. They gave away three bobbleheads last season, one of those was a mini-bobblehead (Verlander) … and you had to be one of the first 10,000 customers to get your bobble. The other two were nice – one commemorating Max Scherzer’s Cy Young Award, the other Miguel Cabrera’s two MVPs – but the rarity and scarcity of Tigers’ bobbles makes them last on the list. There is one real positive here: The Tigers’ Scherzer bobbles, both last year and 2013, do model his heterochromia iridum. Maybe that relieved the tedium, just a bit, for all those ill-paid Chinese bobblehead artisans.
My only in-the-ballpark bobblehead in 2014! The Astros gave away only 10,000 pieces per promotion last year, which is why they rank this low. My party arrived at the ballpark in plenty of time, though … Only to be stuck outside the gate for 20 minutes because of an incompetent ticket seller; all the while, I could see the piles of boxes of li’l Lance Berkmans getting smaller and smaller. But there was a happy ending, as we finally got in, and I received my li’l Lance (which I wanted because I knew an out-of-town Astros fan who deserved a small gift). Anyway, Houston’s other bobbles were Jason Castro, Roy Oswalt, and twin statues of Nolan and Reid Ryan (and I’m not a fan of the multiples, especially when one of them’s a little kid wearing 1980s casual wear).
13. White Sox
Only two bobbles all season, but they’re good ones: Chris Sale and La Russa. Hey, I like the early-‘80s White Sox livery. Sue me! (Granted, this tiny Tony seems to have been made from the same mold as Oakland’s poor simulacrum, below).
Three bobbles, one of which celebrated everyone’s favorite disappointment, Josh Hamilton. The trio is somewhat redeemed by Mike Trout … and would be more redeemed without his bobble’s offbeat (i.e. unwelcome) base. Don’t mess with perfection! The third was a commemoration of Albert Pujols’s 500th home run … with another gimmicky base and a garish add for oil products. Delightful.
11. Blue Jays
Three bobbles: Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and R.A. Dickey, none of whom exactly come dripping in maple-leafed glory. But you know I love the knuckleballers, and especially the knuckleballers who author good memoirs.
Great subjects in Josh Donaldson and Catfish Hunter, but Donaldson suffers from being surrounded by a “diorama”; as I mentioned last time, gimmicks don’t make for a great bobble. Oh, and there’s also a bobble for La Russa’s Hall of Fame election, which is fine except it doesn’t look anything like him. At least the A’s gave away 20,000 Donaldsons and Catfishes, and 15,000 li’l La Russas.
Points to the Tribe for Jason Kipnis, emerging star Jason Kipnis, and I suppose Orel Hershiser, even though he hardly screams INDIANS to me. But it’s hard to get excited about Michael Bourn, and the club actually loses points for the oh-so-gimmicky Nick Swisher “Brohio” bobble. Granted, some of you figure that’s a highlight of the 2014 bobble season, and I won’t try to talk you out of it. I’m just glad there were only 12,500 of the things.
The Rays rank this high for three reasons: Wil Myers, Mr. Happy (!?) and volume, as the poorly attended franchise still gave out 20,000 bobbles per, more than half the other teams in the league. But I certainly couldn’t get excited by Alex Cobb wearing army clothes or Evan Longoria in an ‘80s hair band. Double-meh.
Tough year for the franchise, but at least there were some solid bobbles for the suffering fans. Alas, two of them were for highly disappointing first-year Rangers Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. And another depicted Eric Nadel, a fine broadcaster but desks don’t make for good bobbles. The highlights here are Yu Darvish and Pudge Rodriguez. Even there, though, Darvish has a non-traditional bobble pose. I do like Pudge’s big stack of Gold Gloves, but both statues are partially spoiled by advertisements, and thus require minor surgery at home.
Solid collection: Harmon Killebrew, Tom Brunansky ’85 All-Star, and Glenn Perkins 2014 All-Star – as you’ll recall, the Mid-Summer Classic was in Minneapolis last summer – plus Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech, an odd choice for the Twins but hey we’re all baseball fans here, right? Twins would rank two or three slots higher, but they’re one of the chintzy clubs that gave out only 10,000 bobbles per promotion. Still, if you’re a Gehrig fan, this is the place for you. The Yankees (more on them later, of course) gave away the exact same Gehrig-speechifying bobble, and they gave away more of them (if not a LOT more) … yet the Twins’ giveaway is significantly cheaper on eBay.
Overall, the best group of bobbles in the league: James Shields, Sal Perez, Alex Gordon, and the highly desirable Mr. Royal (so desirable that I can’t afford one). But only 10,000 apiece, Mr. Glass? Really? After all the fans had been through since 1985? For shame, sir. For shame!
Just Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and fans’ choice Chris Tillman. But the O’s gave out 25,000 of each.
If I were grading on the curve, the Yankees would get gigged for giving out only 18,000 bobbles per promotion. Which presumably means getting to the ballpark about three days before the gates open, if you want one. But I’ll be charitable, maybe to make up for all the terrible things I’ve been saying about the ballpark. And the Yankees did lead the American League with six bobbles last season, including Mark Teixeira, Paul O’Neill, Joe Girardi (sans notebook), and the aforementioned Iron Horse with microphone. The other two? Hello Kitty, and the Peanuts’ Lucy. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
You can have my Macklemore bobblehead (if I got one, which I didn’t) but I’m keeping my Robinson Cano, Hisashi Iwakuma, Lou Piniella, and Felix Hernandez bobbles if I got them (I didn’t). Not surprisingly, the Mariners’ bobbleheads don’t come festooned (or festered) with advertisements. Just clean, solid ceramic fun.
1. Red Sox
Only three last season. But they were good ones! Papi, Pedroia, and Pedro. And here’s the real news: Guaranteeing bobbles for every ticket-holder, the Red Sox were the only A.L. team to give away more than 25,000 per. And of course they cleared that number with ease.
This fascinates me, by the way. Why would some teams give away only 10,000 bobbles, and other teams 40,000 or (in the case of the Dodgers) many more? If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll try to find out. Although it’s hard to figure how I’ll find someone willing to defend the low numbers…