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Miss getting your hands on a Matt Carpenter bobblehead doll over the weekend at Hammons Field? That's OK. Opening bids for several on eBay start at $42.99, $45.99 and $49.99.

Or, you could get smart, buy a $6 general admission ticket Thursday and grab a free bobblehead doll of Carpenter's St. Louis Cardinals' teammate, closer Trevor Rosenthal.

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Which is the advice of Carl Smith, who as a Springfield paper boy in the 1950s would deliver 800 papers and, from each subscriber, collect a tidy $1.80 per month.

If you don't arrive early — as in well-before-noon-early like him and many others — you'll miss out and way over-pay later.

"We've been season-ticket holders since day one, and we've seen them (the prospects) come through here before they went to St. Louis," Carl Smith said, referring to his wife, Vicki. "We keep ours in the box and give them to our grandson."

All in all, more than a dozen years since bobblehead dolls became wildly popular when they burst on the scene in the minor leagues, they haven't at all lost their buzz.

In some ways, they're like catnip for fans who can't seem to get enough of them.

In fact, the Springfield Cardinals this season alone will hand out 24,500 — among seven bobblehead nights — and do so for one obvious reason: to drive attendance.

Even better, minor league clubs have raised the stakes by becoming incredibly clever.

A farm club of the Cleveland Indians, for instance, arguably is going above and beyond the call of duty on Aug. 1 when the Lake County Captains will give away bobbleheads of Jobu. Jobu being the voodoo doll of Pedro Cerrano, the slugger in the 1989 movie "Major League" who offered his Jobu rum in hopes of triggering hitting streaks.

Meanwhile, comedian Bill Murray owns the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs, who this season will give away a bobblehead likeness of the late Harold Ramis, Murray's co-star in "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes."

And remember in the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" when former big-leaguer Keith Hernandez was accused of spitting on Kramer and Newman? Leave it to the nearby Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets farm club, to roll out a Keith Hernandez "Magic Loogie" bobblehead on July 5.

"Twelve years ago, I remember telling a sponsor that they had a dying popularity. I couldn't have been more wrong," said Matt Gifford, general manager of the Springfield club. "(For the Cardinals), it's great because it's a memory of guys who came through here.

"Fans put it on the mantle or desk, and I think that's what's neat about bobbleheads."

Talk about stepping up to the plate again this year.

Hammons Field's giveaways feature Joe Kelly's so-called standoff against the Los Angeles Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke in last year's playoffs; and none other than longtime Springfield resident Bill Virdon, the 1955 Rookie of the Year for St. Louis before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The seven bobbleheads this year are by far the most in one season for the Double-A club. Springfield gave away only three last season.

That's by design. Giveaways such as free T-shirts and baseball bats help drive attendance.

The club generally doles out 2,500 of the free items on giveaway nights, plus an additional 1,000 to those who signed up to a promotional club, said Springfield Cardinals sales and marketing director Dan Reiter.

The Carpenter bobbleheads on Saturday night led to a crowd of 6,269, or roughly 400 more than a week earlier on a Carpenter T-shirt giveaway.

"Our staff works extremely hard with (the manufacturers) to not let anything slip by, right down to the stripes on the stirrups," said Gifford, whose club has averaged roughly 342,700 per season in ticket sales a year.

A year ago, all but one big-league club, the Red Sox, scheduled bobblehead nights. Some 2.59 million dolls were given away, and the Dodgers saw an 18 percent bump in attendance on Tuesday nights when offering bobbleheads, according to the Sports Business Journal.

Which is why fans better arrive early, even at Hammons Field. Just ask Karen Brown of Springfield. She was among the early arrivers Saturday.

"People will even try to buy them outside of the gate," Brown said. "They'll stand across the street and ask."

And her response?

"Uh, 'No,'" Brown said. "I always give mine to my nephews."

Bobblehead history

A list of bobbleheads given away at Springfield Cardinals games over the years:

2005 — Ned Reynolds

2006 — Chris Lambert, Bob Gibson

2007 — Josh Kinney

2008 — Colby Rasmus

2009 — Bruce Sutter

2010 — Stan Musial, Whitey

Herzog

2011 — Steve Carlton, "Pop"

Warner, Paint Your Own Louie

2012 — Matt Adams, Ozzie Smith, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, David Freese

2013 — Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras

2014 — Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Bill Virdon, Louie Bobblehead Photo Frame

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