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Dusty's, er, Daddy's Bobblehead Collection

By Donald G. Evans

I’m sitting here in the very last row of the upper deck at Wrigley Field, on a night I’d swear was February if I hadn’t confirmed May 27 with my calendar. The wind is howling. I’m wearing long underwear and leather gloves, not to mention a flannel shirt, sweatshirt and sweater, and still: freezing. Soriano hits one ball like a shot out to left, and when it leaves the bat I’m thinking, “Waveland Avenue,” but it blows across the diamond and back toward home until, finally, Fukudome catches the ball just behind second base.

Kosuke Fukudome bobblehead giveaway
Fukudome. The reason I’m here (other than the fact that it was 80 degrees yesterday and I assumed today would be at least in that vicinity) is Fukudome. More precisely, the Fukudome bobblehead given away to the first 10,000 fans. Only: no Fukudome bobblehead. My ticket said, “7:05 p.m.,” which I assumed meant, “7:05 p.m.,” but when I arrived at around 5:30—plenty early to claim my prize—they were ALL GONE. Turns out the game, without my consent, had been moved up an hour to accommodate an ESPN broadcast.

I’m bitter. I’m a middle-aged man, and I can’t help but look with envy, lust and desire at all the Fukudome bobbleheads propped on empty seats and sticking out of tote bags and lying between legs. This has ruined my night, and this wind isn’t helping. I want a Fukudome bobblehead; I need a Fukudome bobblehead; I have to have a Fukudome bobblehead.

I can tell you precisely how it started, but not why. It was two years ago. I remember, because Dusty was two, and I know the season hadn’t yet started because parking was insanely easy. Right in front of the fire station; spitting distance to the entrance. I took Dusty over to look at the big red fire engine parked out front, and then a fireman let Dusty play behind the wheel for a bit. His day was made, but I had bigger fish to fry.

It had been billed as Wrigley Field Garage Sale, and while there was no actual garage it worked, as far as I could tell, on the garage sale principle. The Cubs had some junk they wanted to unload; I had a few bucks earmarked for their junk.

At this point, I didn’t collect memorabilia. No signed baseballs, no old scorecards, no vintage newspaper clippings. My baseball cards were long gone. I didn’t even own a Sandberg or Buckner or Lee jersey. But I love the Cubs and I love garage sales, and I figured the intersection between the two could only be good. Unfortunately, my two-year-old son, as two-year-old sons are wont to do, set a languishing pace. He apparently didn’t understand the concept of Early Birds. Between that, and the dalliance in the fire station, the good stuff at the good prices, if there ever was such a thing, was long gone. Still, it was worth poking around a bit.

I’ve always been a collector. In addition to the usual—baseball cards, beer cans, superhero dolls—I even, as a kid, collected soap wrappers. There was something that appealed to me about the wide variance, yet finite number, of some category. You knock out Dove and Dial and Crest right away, but as you drill deeper you find there’s Camay and Irish Spring and Lifebuoy. There’s something, I don’t know, satisfying about tracking down a hard-to-get example, or just stumbling across something unusual, and it’s sort of exciting to display them all together in anticipation of somebody acknowledging, “Wow! There are a lot of different kinds of soap that I didn’t even know about,” or “Man, that’s a lot of soap!”

So while Dusty busted up an aisle filled with stuffed animals and giveaway baseball cards, I browsed. I didn’t know what I was looking for. My garage sale philosophy is that you don’t go after need, but best available. You take the good deal and decide what to do with it later. When I first spotted the bobblehead set, it didn’t strike me as that exact something you know when you see. It was really only the price. Ten bucks for three: Sandberg, Farnsworth and Sosa. Two would-be Hall-of-Fames and an asshole with a blazing fastball that had been run out of town. Not a bad start. I thought to myself, I truly thought this, “Those would look good in Uncle Rick’s hot dog stand.” My Uncle Rick has a Chicago-style hot dog stand in Mesa, Arizona, and the place is loaded with Chicago stuff, especially Chicago sports stuff. A couple Cubbie bobbleheads around the relish tray would be a nice addition. I got them.

In my adult life, I’d mostly channeled my collecting energy into books, reserving some relish for Margaret’s tea cozy collection. When I was a boy collecting baseball cards, I went hard after complete sets. I liked getting stars, but I had more enthusiasm for tracking down the missing pieces: the Joe Lovittos, the Fritz Petersons, the Fred Schermans. It became an obsession, going after those last bits: buying packs, stealing packs, trading doubles.

I looked at my bobbleheads in the light of my living room. I had been trying to decide—really—whether to ship them off to Arizona now, or deliver them myself when I visited there later in the month. I took Sosa out of the box, just to see. I set him on the mantle above my fireplace. I excavated Sandberg and then Farnsworth from the packaging and put them on either side of Sosa. Looked kind of cool.

At this point, there was a subtle shift in my thinking. Dusty would, one figured, soon be a Cubs fan, and wouldn’t he appreciate a head start on a little collection like this? I’d keep these three bobbleheads—it’s crazy, anyway, to put these things in a hot dog stand, where anybody could bump into them, CRACK!—and maybe add a few key pieces to the set. When he got old enough, I’d turn them over.

I hopped on Ebay, just to peak. Man! Santo, Jenkins, Grace, Banks—those were all out there. Greg Maddux in a Cubs uniform, yes. Dusty Baker. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. I obviously needed to get busy. Now, part of collecting, to me, is to shrewdly secure the desired pieces—meaning, either get them as a giveaway, trade for them, or buy them at good prices. Any collection (well, the soap wrapper collection was probably never going to appreciate), you want to it to be more valuable over time, and so you can’t pay top dollar. A bobblehead’s just not going to go through the roof, even if you sit on it ten or twenty years. Besides, there’s no challenge in just plunking down the cash, BAM!—if you were willing to do that, you just get them all and be done with it. Good deals: that was definitely part of it.

My niece Brianne had Santo sitting on a bookcase at home, and when I made a subtle inquiry she said, “Take it.” Good deal? I think so. The memorabilia shop on Addison and Clark was having a fire sale on Dusty Baker. Check. There were dozens of Kerry Woods and Mark Priors on Ebay, and the combination of availability and depressed value (both pitchers were at this time doing towel drills somewhere in Arizona) made them a steal. Check, check. Somebody on Craigslist was unloading a Jenkins at a fairly reasonable price, especially when you considered: it was signed.

Wait: signed bobbleheads. Signed…bobbleheads. Ron Santo was doing a fifteen-buck-a-throw signing at a card shop on the North Shore, and I was going out that way anyway. I dropped the bobblehead off, picked it up a few days later with Ronnie’s scrawl on the pinstriped leg. How great was this! Now, not only were there all these great bobbleheads to run down—many of them limited edition numbers passed out at games—but now the collection had a new level of difficulty. You couldn’t buy these even if you wanted to. You couldn’t get these on Ebay; nobody on Craigslist was trying to extort you for them; you could go to ten thousand garage sales and flea markets without so much as a sniff of one. I mean, who gets their bobbleheads signed? Meaning, if I lived long enough, I would have the only truly complete collection of signed Chicago Cubs bobbleheads known to man. Santo, Jenkins, Ramirez, Lee, Sandberg, and so on. (There is no Billy Williams bobblehead, which begs the question, “What’s the benchmark for getting your own bobblehead?)

Last season, the collection kicked into high gear. I was at Wrigley Field to get my Ramirez, Lee, Zambrano and Barrett; I traded a guy my extra Barrett for Soriano, a different guy my extra Lee for Pinella. (Tip: When you go to a Bobblehead Day, only go with somebody NOT INTERESTED in his or her bobblehead, like your wife). Meanwhile, the Peoria Chiefs were giving away Jody Davis. How far is Peoria from Oak Park, anyway? Couldn’t be too far.

I have no space for these bobbleheads. I’ve got some displayed on makeshift shelves around my makeshift office; a lot are stored in a trunk. The dream is, someday soon we’re going to build a two-story garage, with the second floor being my writing loft, and in that writing loft will be bobbleheads (Cubs bobbleheads) (signed Cubs bobbleheads) as far as the eye can see. I told myself they were going to go to Dusty when he got old enough, but who’s to say when that will be? Besides, I’ve got to have something to leave in my will.

Only here I am, no Fukudome. Between shivers, maybe even mid-shiver, I’m imagining that writing loft with all those signed Cubs bobbleheads, and I can see, I can just see, the big gaping hole that should be, but isn’t, filled by that Fukudome bobblehead. I walk down the ramp to go to the bathroom and get my circulation going, and as I do I spot two boxed bobbleheads lying, relatively unguarded, under a seat. The perfect crime reveals itself to me. Remember the bowler hat scene in the Thomas Crown affair? Dozens and dozens of guys in bowler hats and trench coats, carrying briefcases and scattering in every direction. The perfect crime, because the actual thief and all his look-alikes are indistinguishable. I’m thinking of that same scene, only with Fukodume bobbleheads—identical Fukdume bobbleheads—spraying every which way. This isn’t a serious thought—I hope not, at least—but it is a thought. Who would question me? I went to Fukudome Bobblehead Day, and I came home with a Fukudome bobblehead. Right? Besides, this is a dubious moral position: the difference between this person, and not me, coming to own this bobblehead—and not one but two bobbleheads, probably only to be sold on Ebay anyway—is razor thin.

I choose, instead, to offer to buy the extra Fukudome bobblehead, and when I get turned down I’m a marked man. Now I’m the guy without the Fukudome bobblehead looking for a Fukudome bobblehead, and the whole Thomas Crown Affair scenario is blown.

I return to my seat, a freezing, Fukudome bobbleheadless father whose moral compass, in deed if not thought, is intact. Worthless trinkets, but ones I prize, and there’s no telling where, when or how this will all end.

Donald G. Evans, author of Wrigleyville sports gambling novel Good Money After Bad, is the Lovable Losers emcee. His stories have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Pinyon Review, The Journal and Narrative Magazine, among others, and he will soon have a story appearing in the Xavier Review.

Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 at 02:50PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue in , , | Comments5 Comments | References2 References

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  • Response
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  • Response
    NFL is seriously 1 of the largest sports in America. It has a main following.

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