In an elaborate ceremony that fans and players of the San Francisco Giants have been waiting for ever since the ballclub moved from New York to the West Coast 53 years ago, the team was presented with their 2010 World Series championship rings before Saturday night’s game at AT&T Park.
The first 20,000 fans entering the ballpark received replica ring key chains, with many also proceeding to buy the special gold-lettered hats and jerseys that the Giants players themselves were set to wear later during the ceremony and game.
Major League Baseball teams that win the World Series have received rings to commemorate their achievement almost as long as the Fall Classic has been played.
The first modern World Series was played in 1902, and teams have given out rings since 1922, said Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Visiting AT&T Park today for the ring ceremony, Idelson explained that before 1922, players would often receive other items to mark their World Series win, and brought with him several rare Giants artifacts from the Hall’s museum in Cooperstown, New York.
The Giants had won the World Series five times previous to last year’s victory, and Idelson shared a pin from 1905, and a pocket watch fob from 1921, both of which were given to players on those respective teams.
“In 1922, the Giants actually made the first ever World Series ring,” Idelson said.
An example of that first ring, along with one from 1933 and 1954, the last year the Giants won it all before the 2010 season, were also brought to today’s festivities by Idelson, who wore white gloves and handled each of the items with extreme care.
Before the ceremony, Idelson visited with the current Giants team, showing them the priceless collection of baseball memorabilia, something he has done several times with other World Series champions over the years.
“It helps add to a team’s history, and allows them to embrace their history and sort of celebrate a little more deeply,” said Idelson. “The [Giants] players have seen them, the players love them.”
Giants’ announcer Renel Brooks-Moon kicked off the start of the ceremony at 6:15 p.m. by greeting the sold-out crowd and initiating the “procession of the rings,” in which a trio of classic cars carrying the ring bearers was paraded around the outfield warning track to the area behind home plate.
Led by a group of police motorcycles with lights flashing and officers mounted on horses, the moving column was given a live musical soundtrack by members of the San Francisco Symphony, situated on the side of the infield.
Long-time Giants announcers Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper were introduced as the masters of ceremonies, and both men, wearing tuxedos, took their place behind podiums in the infield.
“Tuxedos, rings…if you think we’re here to renew our vows you’re mistaken,” Kuiper joked.
“This ceremony symbolizes a lot of things to these players, and it symbolizes a lot of things to you fans,” Krukow said in a more serious tone.
Giants’ Managing General Partner William Neukom and team president Larry Baer took positions on a large circular orange carpet over the home plate area, flanking the World Series trophy, and with some help from an assistant prepared to give out the rings, each to be presented on a silver platter to the recipient.
The first person to be announced and the first to come onto the field to get his ring was Giants’ clubhouse manager Mike Murphy, who has been with the team since they first moved to San Francisco back in 1958. Walking out from the dugout on an orange carpet, Murphy, who started with the team as a bat boy, was greeted with a roar of recognition from fans.
“Definitely some tears came to my eyes. It’s been a great thrill to get a World Series ring; I’ve been a bridesmaid three times, but now I’m a bride,” Murphy said after the game, referring to the team’s three prior unsuccessful appearances in the World Series.
General manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy were next, and they joined Neukom and Baer to greet all of the players that followed, each introduced in numerical order according to their jersey number.
As members of the 2010 champion team made their way onto the field, they tipped their hats to the crowd, received their rings, and shook hands and hugged the four presenters before taking their places lined up between the bases.
Images of the beaming players were shown on the scoreboard screen, showing off the rings on their fingers, with the crowd starting to chant “Let’s go Giants!” after the last player, Barry Zito, reached his position.
Next, four former Giants players, all Hall of Famers, were escorted onto the field by four current players, to receive honorary, special 2010 World Series rings: Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and Willie Mays, who were all greeted with thunderous applause from the stands.
The proceedings came to a close with the ceremonial first pitch, delivered by four former athletes representing other Bay Area champion sports teams–Al Attels from the Golden State Warriors, Jim Otto from the Oakland Raiders, Steve Young from the San Francisco 49ers, and Reggie Jackson from the Oakland A’s, who were joined by Giants star pitcher Tim Lincecum.
After the game, which the Giants won in a dramatic, come-from-behind fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning, several members of the team reflected on what the day’s events meant to them.
“It’s just a great day, an emotional day for all us to get the rings; now not only will we remember getting the rings, but the game itself, because what a game they played tonight,” Bochy said.
Relief pitcher Sergio Romo, proudly showing off his new ring to the media in the Giants’ clubhouse, put it in perspective when he said, “In all reality, this is why we play right here.”
Sean McCourt, Bay City News