In a world with a normal baseball season, last Monday’s game would have been a big one for the Giants. The day would have marked Madison Bumgarner’s first trip to Oracle Park as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and that matchup would have dominated the conversation leading up to the game.
But behind the scenes, some Giants officials had long had April 6 circled for a different reason.
Bumgarner’s decision to sign with Arizona changed the focus of that game, but in the organization’s business offices, it already was viewed as an experiment of sorts. The Giants planned to give out a Mike Yastrzemski bobblehead that night, trying something new in a bid to increase ticket sales during what was expected to be another down year on the field. Bobblehead days, which remain wildly popular, have traditionally been on weekends.
“The spirit going into this season was to experiment and try some new things with promotions,” said Mario Alioto, the Giants’ longtime executive VP of business operations. “What would happen if we did it on a Monday night? What kind of customer would that attract? Unfortunately, we didn’t get that chance to test it.”
The Yastrzemski bobblehead would have been an experiment, but it also would have been a continuation of one of the longest-running themes at Oracle Park. For two decades, bobblehead days have been an event for the Giants, whether they’re contending for a World Series title or working on a subtle rebuild.
When team employees see a particular weekend date selling at a higher rate, it tends to be a bobblehead day. Years ago, when the Giants would hand out just 20,000 of them, the lines in the morning would extend down the Embarcadero towards the Bay Bridge, forcing players to wait for a gap as they tried to get into their parking lot. It wasn’t uncommon before the three-title stretch to watch fans walk into the ballpark with their ticket, grab a coveted bobblehead and soon head right back out to the street.
The Giants have given out bobbleheads of just about every star to come through their clubhouse since 1999. There are all sorts of variations of Willie Mays bobbleheads — Mays swinging a bat, Mays riding in a parade, Mays making The Catch. Bruce Bochy got a bobblehead. Kruk and Kuip got one. Marty Lurie did, too. This season, E-40 was going to get one.
Yastrzemski, though, was the only current player to have a bobblehead night scheduled for 2020, which got me thinking: “How do the Giants decide which players to turn into bobbleheads every season?” An indefinite shutdown of the sport seemed the perfect time to look for an answer. It turns out it’s pretty simple.
“There’s really no science to it,” Alioto said. “It’s who is popular, and then, is there a big moment we want to celebrate.”
Alioto and his team start planning the next season’s promotions as soon as they get the schedule from MLB. Last year, an