Baltimore Orioles players have joked in the past that they didn't look like their bobblehead dolls. But when a recent shipment of Brian Roberts bobbleheads arrived, team officials knew something was wrong.
Roberts, who is white, had dark skin. It wasn't just a deep tan.
"It didn't look like Brian Roberts. The coloring was bad," Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said. "I didn't actually see it. I've heard various versions that it was very dark and bluish."
The team returned the entire shipment of 20,000 Roberts dolls, which they had planned to hand out today. Instead of bobbleheads, all fans who attend the game against the Texas Rangers will be given vouchers that they can use to pick up more accurate Roberts dolls at Camden Yards after Sept. 1.
The team may end up giving away more than 20,000 dolls because of the mistake, Stetka said.
Roberts said Friday he wasn't worried about the mix-up.
"I never saw it," he said of the bobblehead. "I heard, that's about it. It's not that big a deal, whatever."
The Roberts bobblehead was part of a heavily promoted set, intended to be joined with a Melvin Mora doll scheduled to be given away Aug. 24 to the first 20,000 fans ages 21 and up.
Together, the dolls would depict second baseman Roberts and third baseman Mora in the middle of their elaborate hand-slapping celebration that follows every Baltimore victory.
Stetka said he didn't believe the manufacturer had confused Roberts with the dark-skinned Mora.
"I've seen both of the prototypes," Stetka said. "The first one with Brian Roberts was just too light, and I think they just probably went a little bit overboard."
Stetka said he didn't know the name of the manufacturer and didn't want to subject the company to undue scrutiny. Dolls for several recent Orioles bobblehead promotions have been manufactured in China by Woodinville, Wash.-based Bensussen Deutsch & Associates, Inc.
A BDA spokesman did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking comment.
Stetka said the Orioles were being careful to prevent any of the botched bobbleheads from being acquired by memorabilia collectors.
Mel Schafer, the owner of D&J; Baseball Cards in Halethorpe, said collectors would be interested in the doll but that it probably wouldn't fetch an exorbitant price.
"Brian Roberts is a good, solid player, but he's considered a third-tier collectible," Schafer said. "There wouldn't be that much hoopla."