If bobbleheads would someday be worth unspeakably large bundles of cash, Dodgers clubhouse manager Mitch Poole could pretty much count on some very enjoyable retirement years coming his way, whenever that may be.
Unfortunately, while bobbleheads are definitely collectors' items, the cash value probably won't amount to a vacation home in the south of France. That's OK, though, because by all accounts, Poole didn't start collecting these with monetary rewards in mind. This is simply a side hobby, one that doesn't take too much of his spare time -- which is good, given the on-the-go nature of the life of a clubhouse manager.
Poole's collection of bobbleheads totals 691. He obtained the first two sometime between 20 and 25 years ago, long before bobbleheads hit the mainstream sports scene. Back then, Poole was drawn to the figurines made out of porcelain, but he soon moved on to the entities we know today. Depictions of Willie Mays and Bill Mazeroski served as the very first to start his collection.
"Those were the two I had that were stadium giveaways that actually looked like the players," Poole said.
From there, the lot grew. And grew. And grew. It is displayed in his office, in a large, locked plexiglass container, where every team is represented. Some bobbleheads are pretty standard and need no added gimmicks, like those depicting legends. The Dodgers, for example, have had the obvious Sandy Koufax bobblehead giveaway. That's a no-brainer, as are the Tommy Lasorda and Fernando Valenzuela bobbleheads.
But judging from some of the other bobbleheads in Poole's collection, teams really put some creative thought into these. The Cubs, for example, gave away a series of bobbleheads to commemorate Wrigley Field's 100th birthday, celebrated by the club throughout the 2014 season.
Sure, Kerry Wood and Ernie Banks were immortalized with their own figurines. But other bobbleheads didn't have such obvious ties, like the one of Babe Ruth, in his Yankees road uniform, calling his shot at Wrigley Field during the 1932 World Series. There's also a bobblehead of a player from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which held its first tryouts at Wrigley Field. The first night game at Wrigley Field in 1988 was commemorated with a Rick Sutcliffe bobblehead, standing in front of a backdrop that lights up with one flip of a well-placed switch.
The Braves gave away a good one -- a recreation of the Sid Bream slide into home plate in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series that sent them to the World Series (and broke the hearts of Pirates fans everywhere).
Poole's collection has gained modest media attention over the last couple of years, to the point where fans from time to time will ask him for a bobblehead consultation.
"Fans will look for me in the dugout and say, 'Hey, I just got this Hank Aaron the other day from Milwaukee ... it's pretty cool, do you have that one? I can get it for you if you don't have it,'" Poole said. "I guess people know that I collect bobbleheads."
That may be what he's best known for, but collecting bobbleheads is in no way Poole's crowning achievement. He has witnessed amazing moments during his three decades with the organization. Perhaps there is none more vivid than Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
We all know how the story ends, of course -- Kirk Gibson, hobbled and seemingly unavailable to play, valiantly limped to the plate in the ninth and hit the game-winning homer off A's closer Dennis Eckersley. But Poole actually played a role in the minutes leading up to that big moment, including imploring Lasorda, the manager, to stop what he was doing to check on Gibson.
"Kirk was on the training table, and Vin Scully came over the air and said something like, 'We're going to be doing without his services tonight, because he can't play,'" Poole recalled. "When [Gibson] heard that, he goes, 'Mitch! Get my uniform!'"
With the hitting coach unavailable to help Gibson at that moment, duties fell to Poole, who ended up in the cage with Gibson, tossing balls and setting up the tee for him.
"He was looking for location and movement for the backdoor slider," Poole said. "Then he told me to go get Tommy."
After Lasorda was made privy to Gibson's intent to hit in the ninth, Gibson turned to Poole and said, "You know, Mitch, this could be the script."
"Just like that," Poole recalled. "I'll never forget those words. And the rest is history."
A bobblehead commemorating Gibson's famous arm-pumping trip around the bases surely is one of the 691 bobbleheads residing in Poole's office. Maybe the back story to that great moment in Dodgers history deserves one, too.
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