The Collectible Columnist
Sid Hartman, longtime sports columnist for Minneapolis' Star Tribune, is
now a bobblehead doll.
By Burl Gilyard
How does a sportswriter achieve immortality? By becoming a household
name among local readers? By publishing a name-dropping autobiography,
chock full of "close personal friends"? By having his image featured on
a bobblehead doll? Sid Hartman, a sports columnist for Minneapolis' Star
Tribune, has done all three.
Gilyard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. He is a former staff
writer for two Minnesota alt-weeklies, the Twin Cities Reader and City Pages.
Bobblehead dolls--figurines with a head on springs--featuring pro
athletes are once again the rage in sports promotions and collectibles.
In August, the Star Tribune produced a twist on the trend: a bobblehead
doll of a journalist. The limited edition of 5,000 Hartman dolls, which
depict Hartman holding a notebook in one hand and a hot dog in the
other, sold out in just four days at $12 a pop at the Minnesota State
Fair. Some of the figures were also sold at the newspaper's retail
"There was so much excitement and mania around bobbleheads, it just
seemed like a great opportunity to showcase our own sports icon," says
Roberta Lind Worrell, director of consumer marketing at the Star
Tribune. Hartman fans made offers of up to $200 for the dolls at the
state fair, Lind Worrell says. "But by that time they were gone."
The popularity of the dolls reflects Hartman's venerable status in
the Twin Cities. He began working for the long-defunct Minneapolis Times
in 1944 as an intern on the sports desk and wrote his first column in
1946. Two years later, when the Times shut down, he joined the
Minneapolis Morning Tribune. He's been a fixture on local radio for
decades. With the aid of Star Tribune colleague Patrick Reusse, Hartman
published "Sid!"--an autobiography--in 1997. Now in his 80s, Hartman
still files regularly.
Hartman professes that he had to be talked into the bobblehead idea.
"I'll be honest with you, at first I was against it," he says. But
Hartman says he's honored that the dolls became such a hot item. "I'm
getting 20 calls a day from people who either want one or got one and
want it autographed." Hartman donated his $5,000 share of the proceeds
to a local hospital.
Several of the cartoon-like figures have since appeared on the online
auction site eBay, where a doll can trade for several times its original
price. Pat Adkins, communications consultant at the Star Tribune, says
that the paper is currently developing a prototype of a second,
different Hartman doll, which may be used as a circulation promotion.
The Hartman knickknack represents the first bobblehead of a reporter
ever produced by the Bellevue, Washington-based Alexander Global
Promotions, which has cranked out many of the sports collectibles.
New York Times sports columnist Ira Berkow may have shared in a
Pulitzer Prize (as a contributor to the race series that won the Times
staff the national reporting honor in 2001), but so far he's been denied
the immortality of bobblehead mini-statuary. Berkow recalls working in
Minneapolis in the mid-'60s as a "sub-cub reporter" under then-Sports
Editor Hartman. "Sid was a legend even then," he says.
Berkow jokes that in the wake of the Hartman bobblehead, sports
journalism has entered a new era. "I'm trying to think. Did Ring Lardner
ever have a bobblehead? Did Damon Runyon ever have a bobblehead? Did Red
Smith ever have a bobblehead?" he asks. "I come up empty."
Edited by Lori Robertson