Happy Hunting For MLB Bobbleheads

ALSO: NEVER TOO SOON TO THINK ABOUT 2021 AWARDS

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Congratulations to Dodgers ace Max Scherzer, the 19th pitcher to join the 3000-strikeout club . . .

How rare is that? There have been more authors of perfect games (23) than pitchers with 3,000 Ks . . .

Baltimore’s lone All-Star, Cedric Mullins, stayed hot enough to produce his first 30/30 campaign . . .

Not only did Cleveland become the first team no-hit three times in a season but Zack Plesac lost all three games . . .

The going-nowhere Miami Marlins have tried nearly a dozen different rookie starting pitchers this season.

Leading Off

Baseball Bobblehead Collection Keeps On Growing

By Kevin Braun

The phrase “eating us out of house and home” has become part of the vernacular, most often in reference to teenagers with a voracious appetite.

“Collecting us out of house and home” is a less common expression, but it comes close to accurately describing my hobby as a hunter and gatherer of bobbleheads.
     

Sometimes referred to as bobblehead dolls and other times as “nodders,” these collectibles have been around for decades.

Early bobbleheads were generic; most bore the name of a team rather than an individual player, and the designs were very similar. About the only thing that changed might be the color, based on the team’s uniform. In recent years, they have become much more individualized to the player and focused on themes (such as “Star Wars” or “Game of Thrones”), personal or team milestones or anniversaries.

My bobblehead collection is closing in on 80, and I’ve already filled one large curio cabinet and a smaller one. I found the small one at an estate sale, and when it became apparent I’d need more space, my dear wife bought me a large one as a Valentine’s present a few years ago. But both of those are bursting at the seams, so once again I’m looking for another display case.
           

My collection is almost exclusively baseball, although I do have a few outliers, including Gus Fring and Hector Salamanca (complete with bell) from “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fame. Plus, there’s one I picked up on vacation in Iceland—a puffin wearing a Viking helmet. Just this week, a friend gave me a bobblehead of hot-dog eating champion Joey Chestnut as a retirement gift.
           

My infatuation with bobbleheads started innocently enough in 2009, while we were visiting family in Florida. My wife’s cousin’s husband took my two sons and me to a Jacksonville Suns game, and the gate giveaway was a bobblehead of Clayton Kershaw in a Suns uniform (they were a Dodgers farm team). I kept that bobblehead almost 10 years before trading it to a collector in California in a package deal—I got Sandy Koufax and Vin Scully. My now-grown sons, who have not caught the collecting bug from their father, each sold their Kershaw bobblehead on eBay.
       

We live outside Atlanta, so most of my collection is Braves bobbleheads. That includes seven different ones of Hank Aaron (well, two are statues, but I count them nonetheless) and five of Chipper Jones (including one that plays his walk-up music, “Crazy Train,” by Ozzy Osbourne).
           

We also live close to the stadium of the Gwinnett Stripers (formerly the Gwinnett Braves), the Atlanta Braves’ AAA affiliate, which does its own giveaways. Those are just as popular with collectors as the giveaways at MLB stadiums.
     

I don’t really have a favorite, but the one that’s front and center on the top row of the large cabinet is the “Sid Bream Slides” bobblehead, a 2012 gate giveaway commemorating the slow-footed first baseman’s slide across home plate to win the 1992 National League Championship Series for the Braves over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That bobblehead also includes a lunging Pirates catcher Mike Lavalliere and umpire Randy Marsh giving the “safe” sign.
       

I also have given prominent real estate to a recent acquisition—a bobblehead of Eddie Gaedel, the little person hired by Bill Veeck whose entire career consisted of one at-bat in 1951 with the St. Louis Browns, a walk.
     

I’ve been able to expand my collection without attending a ton of games.  A friend told me about Facebook pages where Braves bobblehead collectors congregate, so I’ve made some trades through there. A few years ago, I even won a bobblehead commemorating Ken Griffey Jr.’s 500th home run from the website stadiumgiveawayexchange.com. Some were gifts from friends who know about my interest. Others were estate sale acquisitions.
     

Bobbleheads are a popular collectible, and I’d guess that every MLB team gives away its share. Fans start lining up long before the stadium gates open to ensure they receive one, because the supply is always limited. Some teams dole out fewer bobbleheads than others; the Braves cap it at 15,000, which is down from a few years ago.
     

It’s on my bucket list to attend a game at every MLB stadium, and some of those visits have coincided with bobblehead giveaways. Anyone in the market for bobbleheads of “Sluggerrr,” the Kansas City Royals mascot; Billy the Marlin or the Queen City Sluggers, featuring the Cincinnati Reds’ top three single-season home run leaders? You can reach me at the email address below.
     

The main reason my bobbleheads take up so much space is that I keep them in their original boxes. I know that’s a weird quirk, but I believe it keeps their value higher. And I can still enjoy looking at them, although that’s harder with the minor-league bobbleheads, which come in plain, white boxes.
     

I’ve started selling off some bobbleheads, so we won’t really need to move to accommodate the collection. But I may offset those subtractions by additions I hope to make at a stop I recently added to my bucket list: A pilgrimage to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee. Maybe I can combine the trip with a Brewers bobblehead giveaway. I’d really like that talking Bob Uecker bobblehead they’re giving away Sept. 26.

Kevin Braun, who lives in Stone Mountain, Ga., recently retired after a 45-year career in newspapers and magazines. He looks forward to having more opportunities to write about baseball. He can be reached at 76orangedad@gmail.com.

Cleaning Up

Predicting The 2021 Baseball Award Winners

By Dan Schlossberg

Like the teams themselves, players seldom repeat sensational seasons from the previous year.

That being said, there should be a whole new flock of winners when individual awards for this season are announced after the World Series.

Here’s a look at the most likely recipients:

American League

MVP — Although voting writers usually prefer players from winning teams, Shohei Ohtani (Angels) will be an exception to that rule. The only two-position player in the majors, he’s already wrapped up Most Valuable Player honors and could even contend for the Cy Young Award trophy. His primary challenger will be Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. of the suddenly-surging Toronto Blue Jays — especially if they reach the playoffs.

Cy Young Award — If he pitches well over the last few weeks, pre-season favorite Gerrit Cole (Yankees) will wind up with the hardware though Toronto teammates Robbie Ray and Hyun Jin Ryu could challenge with a late rush.

Rookie Of The Year — Even though he hit 10 home runs in the 2020 postseason, Tampa Bay outfielder Randy Arozarena, who retained his rookie status for this season, continues to be a driving force for the Rays. His main challengers are teammate Wander Franco, who lived up to his advance billing; Houston pitcher Luis Garcia; and sluggers Adolis Garcia (Rangers), Bobby Dalbec (Red Sox), Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles), and Akil Baddoo (Tigers), who is a lot better than his surname sounds.

Manager Of The Year — Kevin Cash deserves this prize for keeping the budget-conscious Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the highly-competitive American League East. But don’t count out Tony La Russa, at 76 the oldest manager in the majors, who’s 40 years older than his oldest player on the Chicago White Sox. Dusty Baker, also in his 70s, has worked wonders with the scandal-tainted Houston Astros in the AL West and, like La Russa, has won this award several times before.

Comeback Of The Year — Give this one to Baltimore’s Trey Mancini, who missed all of 2020 while undergoing treatment for cancer. Also deserving of votes are Mitch Haniger, who returned with a bang to the lineup of the Seattle Mariners, and Houston’s Jordan Alvarez.

National League

MVP — With Fernando Tatis, Jr. poised to lead the league in both home runs and stolen bases, the San Diego shortstop should bag the first of many MVP trophies. But don’t count out Freddie Freeman, who won it last year, or Atlanta teammates Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, or even Adam Duvall — a feared September slugger. Former MVP Bryce Harper will get votes too even if his Phillies fall short.

Cy Young Award — Since Jacob deGrom hardly pitched over the second half, his third trophy will have to wait ‘til next year. That leaves Los Angeles stalwarts Julio Urias, Walker Buehler, and Max Scherzer as the chief contenders now that Philadelphia strikeout whiz Zack Wheeler has done a slight late-season fade. Don’t rule out Adam Wainwright, who may be 40 but is enjoying a strong finish.

Rookie Of The Year — The Miami Marlins might finish last this year after making the postseason in the virus-shortened 2020 campaign but left-handed starter Trevor Rogers should waltz home with freshman honors in a close race with Atlanta’s Ian Anderson, like Arozarena a post-season star last fall. If not for Anderson’s shoulder problems, he probably would be a clear pick. Also in the running are Cubs corner infielders Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom.

Manager Of The Year — Fired by the Phillies but feted in San Francisco, Gabe Kapler of the Giants is an easy choice. He molded a team of retreads into a juggernaut that has baseball’s best record. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker will poll lots of votes if he wins his fourth straight title in an injury-riddled season. David Bell has Cincinnati bidding for a surprise wild-card spot and will also have some supporters.

Comeback Of The Year -- Buster Posey, who opted out of 2020 because of COVID concerns, returned to his All-Star form, sparking San Francisco to a superlative season. The star catcher may not have too much competition beyond Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who had a miserable 2020 campaign.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is an editor for HERE’S THE PITCH and a writer for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Ball Nine, Sports Collectors Digest, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. His e.mail is ballator@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

The Miracle of Tampa Bay: the team survived the loss of staff ace Tyler Glasnow, who hasn’t pitched since June 15 . . .

When Detroit first baseman Norm Cash hit .361 with 41 homers and 132 RBI in 1961, he used a corked bat for the entire season — as he freely admits today . . .

In the National League Cy Young Award voting in 1998, runner-up Trevor Hoffman had more first-place votes (13) than winner Tom Glavine (11) . . .

Ted Simmons was the first future Hall of Famer to drop off the BBWAA ballot after his first year of eligibility with less than 5% of the vote but still win election later . . .

Youneverknow: the Toronto Blue Jays were held hitless by Baltimore’s Keegan Akin for the first six innings of a seven-inning game before erupting for 11 hits and 11 runs to win in the seventh.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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