- Steve Etheridge, ESPN Playbook
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On May 9, 1999, the San Francisco Giants handed out 35,000 Willie Mays bobblehead dolls to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park.
The fans were amused. Jay Leno had conditioned them to laugh at things with big heads, and now they had a big-headed thing of their own that they could place on their dressers and stare at whenever life became unbearable.
Word of the giveaway’s success spread quickly, and within a couple of days, every team in baseball was giving bobblehead dolls to their fans, and they’ve continued doing so to the present day.
Over the past 13 years, anyone who’s occasionally gone to sporting events now has more bobbleheads than the square footage of their homes can accommodate, and they’ve had to rent out storage units to keep pace. Families have shipped their children off to sweatshops and fed their elderly to compost piles simply because there’s no room left in their houses for anything but bobbleheads.
And yet every year, when teams solicit ideas for promotions, the marketing departments still shrug their shoulders and mumble, “More bobbleheads, I guess.” On rare occasions a team will produce a fresh concept, such as the Rays and their Don Zimmer teddy bears, but typically the giveaway schedule looks something like this: a rally towel, a magnetic schedule, 64,000 DIFFERENT BOBBLEHEADS and a drawstring tote bag.
This year’s no different, with MLB teams combining for a grand total of 98 bobblehead nights. It’s a tired gimmick, and teams could benefit from some change.
To help this process, Playbook has come up with new giveaway ideas for each of the 30 ballclubs.
Tampa Bay Rays
• A foam finger with a bloodstained fingertip -- an ode to Sam Fuld and his glucometer
Toronto Blue Jays
• A 2012 “Let’s Go Marlins” pendant
New York Yankees
• A replica of A-Rod’s contract and a Bic lighter
• A CC Sabathia grow-in-water toy that expands to 500 percent of its original size when placed in water and 800 percent in gravy
• A dead lightbulb with Mariano Rivera’s autograph printed on it, referencing his lights-out reputation as a closer
• A Joba Chamberlain stick-on mustache
• A refund of the service charges fans had to pay last season for games that never even happened
Boston Red Sox
• A Green Monster dry erase board
• A replica of Curt Schilling’s bloody sock
• A shot glass made to resemble Ted Williams’ cryogenically frozen head
Kansas City Royals
• A spot in the rotation
Chicago White Sox
• A make-your-own Southpaw kit, which includes a tennis ball and a vial of that radioactive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle slime
• A beer koozie that’s shaped exactly like Chris Sale’s protruding ribcage
• You know those sticky hands that you can get for a quarter in the grocery toy machines? One of those, but it’s a sickly brown color and it’s labeled “Nick Swisher tobacco spit”
• A latex Terry Francona scalp cap
• Using Billy Beane principles, the A’s can simply take the giveaways that didn’t work for big-market teams and hope that they’re better received in Oakland. Get excited, A’s fans, because Yankees chip clip day is coming soon.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
• You get to watch Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton playing baseball on the same field. That’s the prize. Don’t be greedy.
• Large vacuum-sealed bubbles of air labeled “Luxury Tax Cap Space”
• A “whine stopper:” a plastic, airtight cork that fans can use to reseal the wine bottles they’ve been drinking from to cope with the team’s failures. It also reminds them to stop whining, as things are gonna be ugly for a while.
• A fanny pack modeled after Jim Leyland’s lungs: black, dripping with tar, emits a puff of smoke when unzipped
• A Yu-vuzela, which is a Yu Darvish-themed vuvuzela that makes a distinct yooooooo sound
• Sacks of surplus frozen Ichirolls that they couldn’t sell off in time
• A convenient pocket guide to help fans distinguish the players from the grounds crew
• A stress ball shaped like Jeffrey Loria’s head
• A small sea monkey kit modeled after the stadium’s aquarium backstop
• An ice tray with tomahawk-shaped molds
• A cross-stitch of this tweet from Greg Maddux to Chipper Jones
• A Philly Blunt for the grownups and some Philly Phun Dip for the kiddos
• An oven mitt modeled after the Philly Phanatic’s hand
• Bryce Harper eye black stickers -- a fun way to decorate grandma!
New York Mets
• A Jordany Valdespin protective cup
• A black armband to memorialize Keith Hernandez’s mustache
• Inflatable water wings to help fans stay afloat when the team starts sinking
• W-shaped cookie cutters modeled after the W flag that the team flies after every win. Unfortunately, fans won’t get many opportunities to use these.
• A flipbook that chronicles all of Jeff Karstens’ hideous pitching faces
• A Brew Crew-themed breathalyzer strip to keep the fans responsible -- “If the strip turns blue, no driving for you”
• An Aroldis Chapman jack-in-the-box, which you slowly crank until, suddenly, a baseball blasts out the top at 105 mph, destroying everything in its trajectory
• Bronson Arroyo coasters made from unsold copies of his debut album
St. Louis Cardinals
• An assortment of back acne temporary tattoos to commemorate Mark McGwire’s 70 home run season
• We’ll just let The Onion field this one.
San Diego Padres
• The team’s name is a nod to the Franciscan friars who founded the city, so it seems weirdly appropriate that the newly elected Pope Francis be made into a plush doll, outfitted with a Padres jersey, and handed out to the first 10,000 fans at a game sometime this season
• A coffee mug featuring Todd Helton’s mugshot
Los Angeles Dodgers
• A little Dodgers Hot Wheels car with A.J. Ellis’ wife giving birth in the front seat
• An Aaron Harang nightlight. If your child is too scared to fall asleep, simply plug it into the wall and let the veteran righty’s giant face soothe him into a deep slumber.
San Francisco Giants
• A Sergio Romo version of a Wooly Willy, which fans can use to relive each of his creepy Neanderthal beards from the past few seasons
• A Tim Lincecum stash box for all fans with valid medical marijuana cards
Have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments.