Teaching Negro Leagues history through the power of Bobbleheads

(This is a bit of a departure from what I normally do, but when a bunch of excellent baseball people get together and launch something amazing, I just have to write about it.)

Bobbleheads are charming. Bobbleheads are the undisputed king of baseball giveaway day goodies. Bobbleheads are… educational? In the case of a special series of bobbles coming out soon, that is definitely true. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and Dreams Fulfilled have launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a limited-edition Negro Leagues Centennial Team bobblehead series. The series is officially licensed by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and is being produced by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in conjunction with Dreams Fulfilled and the NLBM.

The bobbleheads are part of the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, which will take place in 2020. Each figurine will be individually numbered to 2,020 and will come in a collector’s box that tells the story of each player. There will be a total of 30 bobbleheads in the series, with new players and executives being released through February 2020. The Kickstarter campaign was launched on December 12 and blew past the initial $10,000 goal within 24 hours. Given the massive scope of the project, though, donations are still needed and will be accepted until January 7, 2019.

Phil Sklar is the co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. In addition to putting the finishing touches on his own soon-to-open museum, he’s helped bring this project to fruition.

“We were approached by Jay Caldwell, the founder of NegroLeaguesHistory.com, about collaborating on a series of Negro Leagues Bobbleheads. He is leading the effort related to merchandise for the Negro Leagues Centennial in 2020 and wanted bobbleheads to play a prominent role,” Sklar says. “We really liked the idea, and I’ve always been interested in learning more about the Negro Leagues since going to Kansas City as a teenager and having an opportunity to go to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

The Centennial Team features a full roster of Negro Leagues legends, including a manager and owner.

The first bobblehead in the Centennial Team series will be Satchel Paige. Others in the series include Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Cristobal Torriente, Oscar Charleston, Larry Doby and Martin Dihigo. The players on the team represent the full timeline of the Negro Leagues, with more than two dozen teams represented. The base of each bobblehead features a replica of Kansas City’s Paseo YMCA, where the Negro National League was organized on February 13, 1920. Sklar hopes that the bobbleheads will encourage more people to learn about the Negro Leagues and its players. Just setting up the Kickstarter campaign page and linking to the Centennial Team player biographies from the NLBM database was an educational experience for him.

“I was really intrigued by Rube Foster’s story and career, but honestly, I can’t wait to see the whole set together and learn more about each player!” he says. “As we’ve seen, bobbleheads are passed on through generations, and we think this series of bobbleheads will continue to educate for many generations to come. The story of the Negro Leagues and the struggles and triumphs of its players need to be told forever, and the bobbleheads will hopefully play a small part.”

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Negro Leagues bobblehead go to the relatives of the Negro League players and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

The Bobblehead Hall of Fame, located in Milwaukee, Wis., has a grand opening scheduled on January 7, 2019, which is National Bobblehead Day. The HoF’s bobblehead collection is approaching 10,000 unique pieces, and about 6,500 of them will be on display, with the ability to rotate and have special exhibits.


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