Among the definitions of bobble in Webster’s New World College Dictionary are “an awkward juggling of the ball in trying to catch or hold onto it,” and “to deal with awkwardly or unskillfully.”
There is no dictionary definition for bobblehead, dolls around 7 inches high with a caricature head on a spring.
Pete Grasso and Mike Ohlson of Cleveland have their own definition of bobblehead: Steve Bartman. That seems to jive with Noah's namesake publication.
Bartman was the headphoned Chicago Cubs fan who, on Oct. 14, sat in Row 9, Seat 11 near the Cubs bullpen in left field at Wrigley Field and tried to catch a foul ball in the stands that Cubs outfielder Moises Alou was pursuing in Game 6 of the National League championship series. Alou didn't make the catch that would have brought Chicago to within four outs of the Fall Classic.
The eventual world champion Florida Marlins eliminated the Cubs in Game 7. Bartman’s act is something Chicago fans have added to the litany of strange occurrences that have supposedly kept the team from appearing in a World Series since 1945.
Grasso and Ohlson's Bartman doll is an uncanny image of Chicago's latest goat. It has him wearing glasses, a Cubs cap, 1980s style headphones, a green turtleneck, Renegades Baseball sweatshirt and blue jacket, just as he did on that fateful night. The stand on each numbered piece reads, Steve Bartman — “Most Valuable Scapegoat” — 2003 NLCS. The head is plastic and the body ceramic.
Grasso and Ohlson aren't bobblehead manufactures. "We made these by hand," Grasso said. "It's not like we poured a mold."
The winner of the first Bartman bobblehead auction on eBay, Bob Kirsch of Highwood, Ill., isn't even a collector.
"A friend of mine told me about this and I just had to have it," said Kirsch, a diehard Cubs fan. "It's so exact a replica of Bartman. He is the Billy Goat reincarnated. It's the most interesting Cubs thing I've ever seen. My bid was as high as I was prepared to pay for it."
The auction began Nov. 9 with a $1 minimum bid and no reserve. It ended Sunday after 1,900-plus hits and bids from 26 people. Kirsch wound up paying $100.
“We didn’t think it would sell for $100,” Grasso said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we didn’t expect that. “We were at a discount store and saw pieces of some broken bobbleheads. I said ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to make a Steve Bartman bobble?’ Mike and I have friends who are Cubs fans and we thought they would like them, so we made a couple.
“Later, we did Google and eBay searches for Bartman bobbleheads and realized there were none. We just figured let’s put one on and see what happens.”
The second Bartman bobble on eBay sold for $72. Two others are currently in auction. Check eBay or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Grasso, who works in public relations. “We weren’t sure what to expect. We thought there might be interest, but nothing like this. We wondered if the whole Bartman thing had died down, was old news. We wondered if people were still thinking about it. I guess they are.”
Cubs fans have already put Bartman in their Hall of Shame. He's right up — down? — there with the Billy Goat curse of 1945 and Leon Durham’s error in the 1984 NLCS at San Diego. When future generations talk about the Cubs and their unusual history, Bartman will certainly have a place.
Grasso said he’s not a Cubs fan, but watched the “Bartman Game” and has many friends who told him about their team’s unlucky history. He has collected a few bobbleheads and thought Bartman would be an interesting addition.
It’s unlikely a major bobblehead manufacturer would have made a Bartman doll. Even the Cubs, who could have had a “Break the Bartman Curse Day” in 2004 are unlikely to touch something so negative.
“We’ve made more of them and will keep putting them on eBay to see what happens,” Grasso said. “Eventually, we’ll probably sell them. I’m not sure how many will be made or what we will sell them for. We’re not a bobblehead company. This is just two guys making something and seeing if it will sell.”
Grasso said he and Ohlson, an electrical engineer, have received a lot of e-mail regarding their project. Grasso said all of it has been positive. “One guy wrote and said ‘I’m really impressed. By the looks of things, you’ll do very well.’ ” Grasso said. “Then, he added, ‘I can’t wait to get my hands on Bartman.' "
Today: The Dugout Sportscard and Memorabilia holiday store in Paradise Valley Mall, Phoenix. Steve Finley, Noon to 2 p.m., $20 each. Contact: Jeff Thalblum (623) 587-9766.