Sorry, Commissioner Manfred. Charlie Hustle is going into the hall of fame.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has announced that Major League Baseball’s all-time hit leader Pete Rose will be the organization’s inaugural inductee.
During the ceremony, Rose will give a speech, answer questions and sign autographs. Attendees will receive a special Pete Rose bobblehead created exclusively for the event which takes place April 23 at Milwaukee's Pabst Theater. Tickets run $55, and are available beginning March 18 at noon.
Rose, a member of the WWE Hall of Fame and soon-to-be inductee into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, was banned from the MLB in 1989 following a highly publicized gambling scandal. In December of 2015, MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. denied Rose’s request to be reinstated. Since 1991, Rose has also been barred from being inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame after officials voted to exclude those placed on the league’s list of permanently ineligible players.
Bobblehead Hall of Fame co-founder Phil Sklar says Rose won an online poll by a whopping 96% to become the first inductee. “So many people wish that he was in the MLB hall that this is the next best thing,” Sklar said. “He also has an iconic bobblehead where he’s sliding head first. It’s a favorite among collectors.”
Although bobbleheads have been a sports staple seemingly forever, they weren’t originally used as promotional products. Paper-mâché and ceramic mascot bobbleheads were available for purchase starting in 1960. The first group of players to receive their own bobblehead included Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays.
Throughout the next two decades, the items suffered a fall in popularity as collectors shifted to action figures and lunchboxes.
In 1990, bobbleheads became cheaper to produce due to a new manufacturing process involving plastic rather than ceramic. Then in 1999, the San Francisco Giants offered a Willie Mays bobblehead to the first 20,000 visitors for the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park, igniting a phenomenon in the ad specialty market that lasts to this day.
Sklar and fellow co-founder Brad Novak are lifelong friends who began collecting bobbleheads in 2002 while Novak worked as a staff member for the Rockford RiverHawks (now Rockford Aviators), an independent professional baseball team in Rockford, Illinois.
Sklar says the collection has grown to almost 6,000. “They were all over the house, piling up in the kitchen,” Sklar laughed.
So in 2014, Sklar and Novak conceived the idea of a bobblehead museum, similar to the Miami Marlins’ attraction inside their ballpark albeit on a grander scale. A website was launched and members paid anywhere from $20 to $1,000 for benefits such as lifetime admission, merchandise discounts, and voting rights on the annual hall of fame ballot.
Sklar says the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A preview exhibit with 2,000 bobbleheads is currently on display until April 30 at community art studio RedLine Milwaukee.