Baseball finds all kinds of ways to pass the time until its return. For instance, every January, the BBWAA decides which former players will be allowed into a little club, preceding the decision with at times insufferable, uninformed opining, and following it with pretty much the same thing. In the middle, deserving players *might* be inducted, but the whole process isn't really about that anymore.
Fortunately, that awful, awful time on the baseball calendar is followed swiftly by the celebration of the sport's most treasured artifact, other than Julio Franco: small figurines with abnormally large heads that move on their own.
Wait, no; don't scramble away in horror. I assure you they are as harmless as Julio Franco at this point. Several sleepless nights have proven to me that regardless of how distant, hypnotic, or lustful their stares might be, they do not come to life when you look away from them. I am 99% sure about this. But only because giving that last 1% of assuredness and dropping my guard completely would almost certainly cause them all to come to life.
But, since everything is totally fine, we can use National Bobblehead Day, which is today, to examine a few of the entries into the Phillies' gallery.
Most Phillies stars have been bobbleheaded over the years, including the 2011 rotation, Jamie Moyer, and Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen; hey, here's Cliff Lee hanging out with... Kevin Millwood?
They even slapped springy heads on certain moments in Phillies history, like Jimmy Rollins and Mike Schmidt on the field after Rollins became the franchise hit leader, or Jimmy and Chase Utley performing their ritual pre-game handshake.
Matt Light of "The Phillies Collector" admittedly leans more toward game-used items and autographs, but as anyone in the world of baseball merch will tell you, bobble heads have a way of getting to you; even those who aren't actively seeking them. Fortunately, there remain plenty of options in this multi-layered subculture (One of Light's personal favorites is the "throwback Bowa" pictured above, difficult to recognize without the screaming mouth).
"I don't think a lot of fans are going to the games with the hopes of 'cashing-in' on a rare collectible," Light says, "but there certainly is that element, too. Instead, most either have a real affinity toward the team or a player, enjoy the whimsy of bobble heads, or are collectors who NEED to add anything new to their collection regardless of player."
"The real die-hards will search for the variants, while the casual fan is happy to add them to the top shelf in their office cubicle. The Phillies are aware of this audience and try to cater to both - produce a figure featuring a popular player for the masses, then sneak a limited release 'alternate' version for the collectors."
If historians were one day to uncover a hieroglyphic language from the early days of the sport, the bobblehead would almost certainly be a prominent part of it. But the Phillies are also helping to ensure the souvenir has a future, as well - this June 18, they will be giving one out at a Saturday day game against the Diamondbacks of Maikel Franco, and the Light family will probably be there, apprentices in tow.
"I keep track of all the upcoming promotions," Light explains, "especially the special theme nights, like last season's 1960s Retro Night when the team gave out the 'retro' bobble head wearing a throwback, 1960s uniform. I still go to the games with my brother - except now we bring our young sons who are collectors in training."
Let us take a look back at some of the pleasant surprises and miscarriages of merchandise that please/haunt us to this very day.
The Phillies release this thing. I believe, through the filter of '60s kitsch culture, the expression on his face is one of precociousness and rebellion. By 2016, there have been far too many horror movies to make it a look of anything but impending doom. "This incredible Philadelphia Phillies bobble head doll is a gorgeous example of this era and style," writes the curator of a web site selling sports antiques who is also likely a nefarious traveling salesman dealing in the black arts. Does he feast on the souls of his bobblehead's victims? Probably.
"Be the latest in a string of owners, the bodies of most of whom have been recovered," a more in-depth description possibly reads.
Five years after the passing of Richie Ashburn, the Phillies gave out a dual bobblehead of Whitey and Harry Kalas holding their microphones. His Whiteness looked down from his place in Nebraska farm boy heaven and approved. Then he probably started complaining about sacrifice bunts. The Phillies honored him the day of its release by losing 5-1.
There's nothing like being replaced by someone who is way, way better at your job than you are, as a pair of twins wearing colonial garments named Philadelphia Phil and Philadelphia Phillis learned upon the birth of the Phillies' new mascot, the Phanatic. Nevertheless, the team continued to remind fans that the twins once existed, allowing them out of the dungeon where "retired" mascots go for various celebrations. They even got their own bobbleheads in 2003, 25 years after they last appeared in the Phillies' logo.
"There have been some real bad bobbles handed by the farm clubs out over the past 10-15 years," says Light. "One I always shake my head at is a Lenny Dykstra figure handed out by the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons in 2004. My two main issues are that one, it is a ridiculous representation of 'The Dude' - take away the word "Dykstra" on his back and it could be anyone. Secondly, it is a real stretch for the club to honor him as a "Red Baron" when he only had a handful of rehab games in their uniform in 1994."
A collection of World Series heroes such as Cole Hamels, Pat Burrell, and Shane Victorino are released, hoisting their glorious trophies in the air. At least, the base of their bobbleheads indicate who they are. Judging by their faces, they are 'a child wearing Cole Hamels' uniform,' 'awkward 12-year-old Pat Burrell,' and 'Guy in Spandex at the Beach who Kicks Your Sand Castle to Death Shane Victorino.'
Charlie Manuel's was far superior, as he pointed at the sky, taunting the gods.
A shocked and disgusted nation responds to an impostor being labeled "Roy Halladay" in the MLB online shop. Not only is the bobblehead left-handed, he's also wearing the face of a person who is not Halladay. "Billy Bob Thornton with a terrible line beard," Halladay face expert ZWR described it. MLB yanked the bobblehead off shelves and the cover-up was on.
Carlos Ruiz is forced by management to hand out bobbleheads of himself at a Citizens Bank Park gate, and thrills a young New Jersey kid by handing him the one millionth Phillies bobblehead ever distributed. After initially not knowing what the hell was going on, the child returned for a beloved Chooch hug, and the Phillies PR team breathed a sigh of relief that the person who received the bobblehead was a mild mannered child and not one of the angry adult fans behind or in front of him in line.
The Phillies also featured a "Phanatic of the Month" bobblehead at this time, which Light says in its first version featured only 100 figures, putting the collectors into a frenzy.
"The second series expanded to 400/month - still fairly limited, but available enough that collectors no longer had to stand outside the first of each month to buy them," he recalls. "Ultimately, this additional availability made them not as desirable leading to deep discounts at year-end. Still, they made a mark and remain one of best things the team has released in the past 10-years."
The Phillies thrilled audiences with a throwback bobblehead of Ryne Sandberg, who played for them very briefly before being traded in 1981 and in 2014 was a year away from concluding a massively unsuccessful Phillies managing career.
But could there be a more purely enjoyable evening of Phillies baseball than the night Chase Utley is honored with a bobblehead? Of course noh my god
All right everyone, clearly we lost focus for a second because, as I warned you, the bobbleheads have come to life, and apparently grow to regular human size after doing so. This is why we [begins calmly loading shotgun one shell at a time] don't give them that last 1%, right? Let this be a lesson to all of you: Never completely let go of your worst fears, because you never know when they'll be realized and you'll have to be ready to put them in the ground.
This has been The Good Phight's 2016 National Bobblehead Day post. Thank you.