An informal survey indicates that bobblehead dolls rank as the most popular freebie each and every year across the majors. These spring-headed dolls, along with figurines and statues, are great collectibles, and therefore incentivize fans to attend certain games or a series of games.
The Milwaukee Brewers are the leaders in this specialty area, with 10 bobblehead giveaways scheduled this year. Their bobblehead lineup ranges from former stars, such as Hank Aaron and Gorman Thomas, to the current crop, including Norichika Aoki and Ryan Braun, to the whimsical in the form of the Polish Sausage that races in the now-famous, comical events that entertain fans at home games. The Kansas City Royals, whose version of the sausage race is their Hot Dog Derby, will be distributing Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish racer bobbles during selected games.
Some clubs offer team broadcaster bobbleheads. The Dodgers will honor Vin Scully this way for his 63 years at the mike. The St. Louis Cardinals are giving away a Mike Shannon bobblehead with a voice chip.
Last year, the Phillies gave out a Hunter Pence bobblehead even after trading the outfielder in midseason to San Francisco. Pence approved the giveaway and even wrote a note to thank his fans, a copy of which was included in the box with each doll.
The bobblehead craze at major-league parks dates to the mid 1990s, when the Giants gave away a miniature likeness of retired great Willie Mays. This year the team is giving out three bobbleheads of current players – Buster Posey, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong.
In past years, they’ve given out 20,000 to 25,000 bobbleheads at a time, but the dolls are so sought after by collectors that people have lined up outside AT&T Park for six hours or more to ensure themselves of getting one of these limited-edition collectibles. Because this was creating a stressful situation at the gates and wasn’t conducive to relaxed family attendance, the team this year will give out 40,000 dolls each time, which they think should cover virtually everyone since their ballpark has 41,000 seats.