By Bruce Levine —
CHICAGO (CBS) — Since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 seasons last November, we have seen many firsts.
World championship rings for Cub players constituted another as the team was presented with their rings Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. It was a culmination of all the spoils that go to the victors.
Twenty fans were randomly selected to hand out the 2016 World Series rings to the Cubs players from last season. Cubs employees were set to receive their rings from chairman Tom Ricketts and his family in a private gathering after the game. Before all that, Ricketts and his family received the first rings from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to begin the ceremony, which took place ahead of the game against the Dodgers.
Never in their history had the Cubs received the diamond-studded hardware. The first team in MLB to receive championship rings were the 1922 New York Giants, and the Cubs hadn’t previously won since 1908.
Since the early 1930s, teams have received various types of rings to commemorate their grand accomplishment.
The championship ring is among the most cherished possessions an athlete can receive. A banner raising is something for the franchise and the fans to enjoy and remember, while a ring is a player’s or coach’s unique piece of history for themselves and their families to enjoy forever.
“You work so hard for it,” reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant said. “You have to wait five months to finally get it. I am really excited about it. This has been a really long wait for us.”
The ring itself carries 108 white diamonds surrounding the bezel, representing the 108 years between championships. There are 214 diamonds in all. The size and gaudiness of the final product will determine how often they are worn. The 2003 Florida Marlins ring had 200 diamonds in the type-A prototype made for players, staff and the front office. The wholesale cost was estimated at $20,000 each. The retail memorabilia market list the price at $40,000 per ring. They’re so full of bling that few who possess them can wear it comfortably.
Jostens Jewelry Company will be selling replica rings to the fans for the first 10 games at Wrigley. The most expensive is a limited edition of 108 rings that are 14-karat gold. These unique rings will retail for $10,800 each. Jostens will have a retail store selling Cub rings and other items during 2017.
Bryant is looking forward to wearing his championship ring.
“It really depends on how shiny it is,” Bryant said about how often he plans to wear his ring. “Of course, if it is really shiny it will attract a lot of attention. I believe it is important to wear it and show it off. It took a long time to accomplish that. We all should be really proud of it. I am a big believer in that, if you do accomplish something like that, show it off. We did it. I am sure we all wear them all the time. Hopefully, as time goes on we will have more on our fingers.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he was more of a banner guy than a ring guy. Nonetheless, he’s thrilled for his people getting the lifetime hardware to display and enjoy.
“You must enjoy this celebration,” Maddon said. “What we accomplished, you must celebrate achievement always. I think symbolically, this ring ceremony will be the conclusion of really turning the page. I want them to take those mental snapshots — 15 or 20 years from now, you will want a strong memory of this moment. You want to remember what it was like, and what it felt like. Please enjoy it. Slow it down in your mind. It is possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss it.”
As for Maddon, he wont’ be wearing his championship ring anytime soon.
“I am not a jewelry guy,” Maddon said. “I don’t like the feeling of jewelry. I wear the wedding band (a rubber one). We will put in a special spot. I will give it to (my wife) whenever she wants to move it on, she will.”
The same goes for Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. He gave his 2004 Boston Red Sox ring to his father. The 2007 Boston championship ring and the new Cubs ring will stay in a safety-deposit box.
“I am not into jewelry,” he said.
Both Epstein and Maddon emphasized they will cherish the ring but not wear it.
In a nice ending moment to the ring presentation, after a group photo, David Ross threw out the first pitch to his good friend and former teammate Jon Lester.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.