Bobbleheads remain one of the most popular giveaway items in the Minor Leagues. And just by looking at them, you can see they agree. What were 2017's best bobbleheads? That, like most things in life, is up for debate. But what's not debatable is that there sure were a lot of
Bobbleheads remain one of the most popular giveaway items in the Minor Leagues. And just by looking at them, you can see they agree.
What were 2017's best bobbleheads? That, like most things in life, is up for debate. But what's not debatable is that there sure were a lot of them. What follows is a detailed -- but far from comprehensive -- recap of some of this year's most notable oversized spring-loaded craniums.
Accomplished alums and/or prominent parent club players
In 1994, Alex Rodriguez began his professional career as a member of the Appleton Foxes. That team went on to become the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, while Rodriguez went on to join Stewart and Serling in the pantheon of all-time Rods. On April 22, the Timber Rattlers tied it all together by distributing Alex Rodriguez bobbleheads.
Jim Abbott never played in the Minor Leagues, arriving on the scene in 1989 with the California Angels. The inspirational one-armed hurler headlined the Inland Empire 66ers' DisAbilities Night on April 29 and the Angels' Class A Advanced affiliate gave away bobbleheads bearing his likeness. The same day, the Omaha Storm Chasers distributed "Salvy Splash" bobbleheads, which paid homage to the former Storm Chaser/current Kansas City Royal's penchant for celebratory postgame sports drink rituals.
The Harrisburg Senators boast an in-stadium "Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame" (Vladmir Guerrero was the first honoree). This season, Matt "In Case of Emergency Take the" Stairs was one of the team's life-size additions. On May 13, a week after Stairs' induction, the Peoria Chiefs paid tribute to a pair of men who never played together in the Minors but probably would have enjoyed the experience if they had: Greg Maddux and Yadier Molina . May 13 was quite a day for creative bobbleheads, as the Potomac Nationals celebrated "Pfitzgiving" with a Bryce Harper Gobblehead. As in, Bryce Harper depicted as a half-man, half-turkey.
On June 2, the West Michigan Whitecaps gave away "real hair" Jack Morris bobblestaches. It is unkown if Jack Morris contributed any "real hair" of his own. A week later, the Altoona Curve combined first baseman Josh Bell with a well-known Saturday Night Live catchphrase. The result? A "Gotta have more Josh cow Bell" bobblehead.
One might associate Ron Shelton with the Durham Bulls, as Shelton was the man who wrote and directed Bull Durham. But before Shelton found success in Tinseltown, he was a Minor Leaguer himself, playing for the 1974 Rochester Red Wings. Some 43 years later, on July 7, the Red Wings honored him with a double-sided player/director bobblehead.
On July 8, theFrederick Keys distributed "Spider Manny Machado" bobbleheads, while the Bowie Baysox gave out "BatManny" bobbleheads. Both teams are Orioles affiliates and, geographically speaking, much closer to the DC universe. Speaking of superheroes: Tim Tebow played Minor League baseball this season. The evangelical erstwhile quarterback spent the first haff of 2017 with the Columbia Fireflies. On Aug. 30, the team immortalized Timmy via, you guessed it, a bobblehead.
Finally, there's the strange case of Trevor Bauer and the Reno Aces. Bauer pitched for the Aces in 2012, when he was in the Diamondbacks organization, which apparently was enough justification for the team to produce "Trevor Bauer Drone" bobbleheads. This one-of-a-kind item, complete with (presumably fake) blood stains, immortalizes Bauer's ill-fated attempt to pitch for the Indians in the 2016 World Series in the wake of a drone-related injury.
Jack Kilway served as an Akron usher from 1997-2016. On April 21, the RubberDucks commemorated his 20 years of service by doling out 1,000 bobbleheads bearing his likeness. Similarly, Rick Rice spent 17 seasons as the voice of the Asheville Tourists, who paid tribute via "Talking Rick Rice" bobbleheads.
The Stockton Ports, no stranger to abdomen-baring bobbleheads, honored the UFC's Diaz brothers on separate occasions. Nick bobbleheads were given away on May 7; younger brother Nate had his day on July 21.
At the age of 17, Chattanooga native Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game. On May 27, some 86 years after her immortal accomplishment, the Lookouts gave her a bobblehead.
Did you know? Country music legend Conway Twitty once was a co-owner of the Salem Redbirds. The Salem Red Sox acknowledged his connection to their Virginia home via June 24's bobblehead giveaway. The Round Rock Express are no stranger to country music bobbleheads, having previously immortalized George Strait and Willie Nelson. This year, they went in a different direction with a "Texas Legends" bobblehead series, instead honoring football legend Earl Campbell.
The Daytona Tortugas staged a widely celebrated tribute to Daytona Beach native Bob Ross on July 15. A bobblehead was, of course, part of the festivities. An artist of a different sort is Michael "Grubes" Gruber, theFrisco RoughRiders' "Ambassador of Fun." The team paid tribute to their Thirsty Thursday-loving human mascot via an assortment of truly bizarre bobbleheads, including, yes, a centaur.
Yankees legend Reggie Jackson loves visiting the team's Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder. In particular, he enjoys visiting the team's bat dog, Derby. The best buddies now have their owndual bobblehead. Speaking of men and dogs, on Aug. 26, the Gwinnett Braves paid "National Dog Day" tribute to broadcaster Tony Schiavone and his loyal chihuahua, Bug. But Aug. 26 wasn't just "National Dog Day;" it also was "Women's Equality Day" and the Portland Sea Dogs honored longtime Maine congresswoman and senator Margaret Chase Smith.
Big Screen Bobblers
It goes without saying that many, many Minor League teams host Star Wars promotions. As part of these promotions, some teams give away bobbleheads with a Star Wars theme, including the Charlotte Knights, Gwinnett Braves and Pawtucket Red Sox (and that's just mentioning teams in the International League). The "Most Ridiculous Star Wars Bobblehead Award" goes to the Altoona Curve for "Revenge of the Fish."
But even Minor League teams are aware that movies exist beyond the Star Wars franchise. The Akron RubberDucks' celebrated A League of Their Own with a Marla Hooch bobblehead (and an appearance by Megan Cavanagh, the actress who played her). Moving west, the Kane County Cougars paid tribute to both Cousin Eddie (of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation fame) and Wayne Campbell (as in Wayne's World). All of the aforementioned movies turned 25 in 2017, as did The Mighty Ducks. The Potomac Nationals celebrated by doling out Les Averman bobbleheads.
On Sept. 2, the RubberDucks returned to the act of celluloid homage with bobbleheads featuring The Naked Gun opera singer and unorthodox umpire Enrico Pallazzo. Even randomly, the Lake Elsinore Storm gave away strategically censored "Streaking Will Ferrell" bobbleheads.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.