Put A Ring On It

Written by: Lenny DiFranza

On April 18, 2015, parachuters dropped into AT&T Park in San Francisco with coveted prizes – championship rings earned in the 2014 World Series. Those high-flying Tiffany rings, with a large diamond for each of the franchise’s eight modern championships and 55 small diamonds, were presented to Giants executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, as the fans roared with delight.

Longtime broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow wore tuxedos as emcees. Giants’ Hall of Famers received rings first, followed by the players, who proceeded one by one to home plate, collected a ring, and got a personal ovation. Fittingly, Series MVP Madison Bumgarner received the loudest cheers. As a gift to their fans, the Giants created replica rings as giveaways.

This ring ceremony, the Giants’ third in San Francisco, was similar to celebrations after World Series victories in 2010 and 2012. But the franchise started in New York, where they won five modern World Series titles. Tracing the history of the Giants’ championship jewelry in the Hall of Fame’s collection reveals the genesis of baseball using rings as a symbol of championships, as well as many rituals surrounding that jewelry that led to the Giants ring ceremony in 2015.

It started in New York

During their first victory over an American League pennant-winner, in 1905, Christy Mathewson hurled three shutouts and became a national sensation. To celebrate the championship, the club presented players with pins that featured a series of diamonds. The Hall of Fame has the pin given to Mike Donlin, the popular Giants outfielder and leading hitter.

Their next Championship came in 1921, defeating Babe Ruth’s Yankees. All the games in this Series were played in the Polo Grounds, the home park for both clubs. By this time, the office of the Commissioner funded jewelry for the winning World Series club. To celebrate their victory, Giants players chose a fob, designed to be connected to a pocket watch with a chain. Commissioner Kenesaw Landis selected the design submitted by New York jeweler Dieges & Clust. The gold pendant featured a single diamond. Each year, Landis had one example of the championship jewelry made for the Commissioner’s office and in 1941 he donated this historic collection to the Hall of Fame.

The First Ring

The next year the Giants, led by the hitting of Heinie Groh and Frankie Frisch, defeated the Yankees once more. Later the Giants players asked the Commissioner’s office for rings as mementos. Landis again chose a Dieges & Clust design that featured a single diamond. Those rings look humble compared to the massive San Francisco championship jewelry, but the very first official World Championship rings introduced the tradition that has lasted through the decades.

The Giants earned their next championship rings in 1933, as Carl Hubbell contributed two victories over the Senators, and Mel Ott slugged two homers. It was the first World Series for the club without their legendary manager John McGraw. First baseman Bill Terry took on that role.

New York Giants 1933 Championship ring - B-25.41 (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The Ring Ceremony

The Giants defeated the heavily favored Indians in the 1954 World Series, remembered for Willie Mays’ stunning catch and two homers by the unlikely hero, Dusty Rhodes. Before 1954, there is no record of the Giants holding an on-field ceremony to present championship rings. But on April 17, 1955, Commissioner Ford Frick braved a chilly day at the Polo Grounds to present rings to the Giants. He also distributed a few awards to individual Giants players and management, including Dusty Rhodes, who received the Babe Ruth Award for World Series Most Valuable Player. Frick sent his ring to the Hall of Fame.

After the Giants moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season, it took until 2010 for them to win another championship. Edgar Rentería was the Series MVP in the defeat of the Rangers. Tiffany used the 1933 ring as inspiration to design jewelry to celebrate the Giants’ latest victory.

The massive new rings featured the team logo and a famous city landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. Members of the San Francisco Symphony performed at the elegant ring ceremony on April 9, 2011, which featured the players dressed in special uniforms with gold highlights and Giants management in formal wear. The Giants held a raffle to win an actual ring, with proceeds going to charity.

Pablo Sandoval powered the Giants’ 2012 World Championship. “Kung Fu Panda” slugged three homers in Game 1 and hit .500 for the Series in the sweep of the Tigers. The ring design process that year was more democratic than in 2010, with input from management and players. They included a diamond for each of the franchise’s seven modern championships and once again featured a San Francisco symbol, this time a cable car. The club held the ring ceremony on April 7, 2013. It was similar to that of 2011, but added a ring giveaway for the fans.

San Francisco Giants 2012 Championship ring - B-128.2013 (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Lenny DiFranza was the assistant curator of new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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