Today is January 7, which means it’s one of the best holidays you’ve never heard of: Happy National Bobblehead Day!
This joyous occasion was created by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame, which, by the way, is also a thing that exists. You can read all about the HOF’s history on its official site. It began around 2014ish, and while the physical location hasn’t yet opened (in Milwaukee), the site says that’s planned for later in January. As for this day of bobble celebration, it was first observed back in 2015.
Personally, I’m a big fan of bobbleheads, as I’ve mentioned here before:
I’ve never been a major collector of sports memorabilia, other than baseball cards as a kid, but bobbleheads are right in my wheelhouse. They’re less expensive than signed balls or game jerseys or framed photos, but they capture my favorite memories just as well and fit nicely on a shelf. I’ve put together a little collection over the years and it makes me happy whenever I walk past it. When there’s a minor earthquake, they all nod at me in reassurance that everything will be OK.
In honor of Bobblehead Day, here’s a look at the collection I’ve put together over the last 12-15 years or so. They are arranged by eras, though in real life the shelves are next to each other 2-by-2 instead of all four vertical like this. (It’s not a bad Photoshop, it’s a brilliant MS Paint job.)
Who’s who, by row:
- 70s Swingin’ A’s: Dick Williams, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ray Fosse
- 80s/90s Bash Brothers: Carney Lansford, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa
- 00s Moneyball: Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez, Scott Hatteberg, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito
- 00s/10s Recent stars: Andrew Bailey, Justin Duchscherer, Dan Haren, Dallas Braden, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Khris Davis
Of course there are some other beloved players who are missing from the group, but my space is limited and a couple of the other All-Stars have kind of weird designs (like the Donaldson tarp catch or the Vogt referee). Huston Street, Rich Harden, and Jack Cust used to be on the shelf (which in this case is a good thing rather than an injury) but were unfortunately demoted back to the bench due to a roster squeeze — the 00s/10s pitchers up there got the nod (that’s a bobblehead pun) because of their five combined All-Star appearances for Oakland (and Braden’s perfect game), and the sluggers next to them are a pair of Hall of Famers and an all-time dinger lord.
My very first bobblehead was Tim Hudson, who was my favorite player of the early-2000s teams when I was in high school. I actually didn’t get it at the game, but rather bought it on eBay a couple years later in college (circa 2005?). One of my roommates at the time accidentally shot Huddy’s ear off with an Airsoft gun. Still looks good, though!
From there, the collection just gradually grew over time. A few came from games I attended, some from games I worked at (for a part-time gameday job years ago), still others were purchased from friends who didn’t want them, and of course several more off of eBay after patiently hunting for bargains (in true A’s spirit). After a decade-plus and a surprisingly modest amount of money, here we are.
The best one is easily Rickey, with the classic celebratory pose and a light coating of dust on his jersey; they really nailed the attention to detail on that one. I also like Chavy standing next to his stack of Gold Gloves, as well as Ray holding the microphone in his catcher’s stance. Hatteberg’s used to play some audio clips of Bill King’s radio call of The Streak homer, but Father Time comes for sound chips too.
All told, this is still fewer than half the bobbleheads that the A’s have ever released. According to their official site there have been 68* in total since 2001, though 10 of those are non-player related (like Hello Kitty, Black Panther, rapper G-Eazy, and the cultural heritage ones) and another is Matt Olson with Chewbacca for some reason. There have also been several repeats (Giambi, Tejada, Chavez, Reggie, Catfish, Rickey, Big 3). And the Rollie that I’ve got up there is from some other source rather than a stadium giveaway.
* Actually, 70. That database is missing two from 2017: the Eck repeat, and the Tejada/Zito combo.
One odd trend I’ve noticed is that the heads have gotten smaller over the years. They are still proportionally oversized compared with human anatomy, but not nearly to the comical extent they once were. La Russa and Khrush look almost normal, though to be fair Khrush isn’t a bobblehead but rather a bobblearm as he salutes a dinger. The smaller heads seem to result in far less actual bobbling, which is a bummer.
On top of that, the A’s simply haven’t commemorated many of their actual players lately. Since 2011, they’ve only done seven active players over eight years for general release (Coco, Cespedes, Donaldson, Vogt, Reddick, Khrush, Manaea), and the last time they did two active players in one year was 2013 (though in 2017 they did Khrush and Melvin). Jed Lowrie played five seasons here and made an All-Star team and three postseasons, but never got one. Neither did Sonny Gray or Sean Doolittle, who were both stars here for half a decade. Doo and Grant Balfour settled for garden gnomes, and only four of the last seventeen A’s All-Stars got bobbles in their honor (missing Cahill, Gio, Cook, Balfour, Colon, Kazmir, Doolittle, Moss, Norris, Sonny, Alonso, Lowrie, Treinen).
Fortunately, the club is already reversing both of these recent shortcomings. There are at least two new bobbleheads scheduled for 2019, to commemorate the Gold Gloves of Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. And looking at this sneak peek of the one for Olson, the head looks like it’s getting properly enormous again. Great work, A’s! (The recent Khrush, Melvin, and Manaea designs were also well done, with perfect balance between clever/unique features but still simple/classic poses.)
Three cheers for bobbleheads! Are you a fan too? Share your collection in the comments!