by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
I have been attending baseball games since the Baby Bull, Orlando Cepeda patrolled the first base area for the Minneapolis Millers. As a sports memorabilia collector, I have always had an interest in some of the promotional items that teams give away on certain days to entice their fans to attend the games. In the sixties, the Twins used to have an annual bat day, where kids would receive a full size Louisville Slugger which they would bang on the metal seat dividers in the box seat area, or simply on the concrete floor, any time the Twins needed a rally. I would avoid bat day at St. Paul Saints games, because Mike Veeck would probably give you a black flying mammal that could bite and give you rabies. Either way, the bats have now been downsized at Target Field to a collectible item about 14 inches long, just like the woeful Twins are using to ….. never mind.
Teams have always given away bats, caps, and the year end fan appreciation day trinket, but sometime in the nineties, the marketing gurus started coming up with more and more promotions, frequently provided by a sponsoring business. The Twins were pioneers in creating many bobblehead days over the past 20 years. The first years included a Kent Hrbek doll in a powder blue Twins uniform. If you can find that one these days, expect to part with $250.00 if you can find a seller. This led to fans camping out at the Metrodome to be first in line to get one of the many bobbleheads offered. You really didn’t have to do that. I remember showing up a couple hours early for Johan Santana and my place in line was easily awarded a bobble. It was interesting to see some savvy investors bringing busloads of kids to the stadium, and furnishing their ticket to the game in exchange for the bobblehead of the day. Also before and after the game, the streets were lined with folks waving $20.00 bills to trade for the premium.
Not quite as popular, but extremely humorous, was the promotion of a “bobble foot” in a bathroom stall, offered one night by the St. Paul Saints. This came on the heels of Idaho Senator Larry Craig caught being naughty at the Minneapolis airport. The Saints also offered a choice of a John Kerry or George Bush doll as you entered the stadium in 2004. The final assessment of requests was too close to call, but there was no recount.
Over the years the Twins have offered many different premiums. Bobbleheads are probably the best, but they have also favored fans with Dairy Queen caps, little mini bats, player’s collector cards, fishing lures, bronze statues, “Thanks a million” rulers; nearly everything except 10 cent beer. But this year was the chutzpah to the nth degree – a free 7 day pass to a fitness center. I have nothing against exercise, but if you visit your mailbox daily, by the end of the week you would probably receive the same deal on a postcard. What’s next? The first 10,000 fans tonight will receive free legroom on a Delta Airlines trip to Milwaukee? All ticket holders will receive free parking at any Cub Foods store in the Metro area? The first 15,000 fans tonight will receive a free Star Wars pen, courtesy of General Mills?
I hope bowling centers are paying attention. We all know their business could be better in the fewer leagues this summer. Jackson Hewitt once offered a PDW bobblehead if you hired them to do your tax return. I don’t have one of those, but if a bowling center offered a Daron Hansen bobble to their first 100 customers, I might be found camping out at their entrance the night before.