Aug. 20, 2001: Puckett bobblehead giveaway gets vigorous nod from fans

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD and TONY KENNEDY
  • Updated: March 6, 2006 - 11:04 AM

As a Twins promotion, it was a grand slam.

Eager fans claimed all 15,000 Kirby Puckett Hall of Fame bobblehead dolls within 30 minutes after the gates opened Sunday morning at the Metrodome.

Saturday night, thousands of fans gathered outside the Dome for Sunday afternoon's game between the Twins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They set up tents and lawn chairs for their night's stay.

The overnight turnout of several thousand fans was the biggest campout for a Twins bobblehead giveaway in the two years the team has run the promotion, said Dave St. Peter, senior vice president of business affairs.

Linda Yerka and her 75-year-old mother, Mary Walentiny, were first in line at the handicapped entrance, arriving about 8 p.m. "All of our family thinks we're nuts," Yerka said. Like other bobblehead veterans, they arrived earlier than they had for three other bobblehead promotions this year.

Earlier this season, the Twins had given away dolls - 10,000 each time - of such former players as Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew and Dave Winfield. That number was increased by 5,000 for Puckett, whose bobblehead likeness was distributed last year, as well.

One of the early arrivals was John Masica of West St. Paul.

He said he found about 200 people waiting when he got to the Dome. For previous bobblehead games, he had arrived later and was closer to the door. This time he was holding places for his three children who planned to join him about 10 a.m., one hour before the gates opened.

"If you don't come here and hold a spot, they won't get one," he said. "We started collecting last season, and I'm trying to keep it going."

Despite the turnout for Puckett bobbleheads, Sunday's crowd of 35,287 was not the biggest for a bobblehead day this season. That was in July, when 44,665 came to a game against Seattle that featured a Winfield Hall of Fame doll.

Attendance for that Sunday afternoon game might have been higher because the Twins were in first place in the American League Central division and were playing the Mariners, who have the best record in baseball. In comparison, the Devil Rays are the worst team in the majors, and the Twins have lost nine of their past 10 games.

Many fans congregating outside the Dome Saturday night had decided after they got their first bobblehead doll that they wanted them all.

One was David Grupa of North St. Paul. He arrived earlier than usual, expecting a heavier crowd for the Puckett keepsake. "You can't stop once you start," he said. "You have to have all the rest."

Mary Gilbert of Apple Valley came about 10 p.m. with her son Michael, 8. They sat in lawn chairs, covered with blankets to keep off the chill. She said Michael passed the time sorting through his baseball cards while she read a book. "It feels like a picnic," she said. "We've made it to all of them. It gets addicting."

St. Peter said the fans who stayed overnight behaved themselves. "There were no security problems," he said. "We have had instances of people trying to crash gates in the past, but for the most part we have found that people police themselves."

Overall, the four bobblehead days this season attracted 144,573 to the Dome.

Some of the Puckett bobbleheads found their way onto eBay, a popular Internet auction site, long before Sunday. Bidding on one doll started last Tuesday; it went for $132.50. "You have some people who anticipate they are going to get a doll, and some dolls are distributed through our corporate partners ahead of time," St. Peter said. "It is feasible some of those folks got dolls and chose to put them on eBay. The Twins have very little to do with that."

By 9 p.m. Sunday, 84 Puckett bobbleheads were on sale. Most bids exceeded $100.

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