When do the words “Embrace the Target” or “Try Not to Suck” belong on a piece of jewelry that could exceed $30,000?
With so many details to ponder on a small but shiny ring, the Cubs must be selective and creative as they commemorate one of professional sports’ enduring achievements.
From diamonds to slogans, every detail goes into designing championship rings in all sports.
The Bulls commemorated their 72-win season in 1995-96 that culminated in their fourth of six championships with the words “Greatest Team Ever” inscribed with four trophies on top of the ring.
More recently, the San Francisco Giants commemorated their third World Series title in five seasons with three round diamonds on one row above five round diamonds on their 2014 ring. The ring also featured the player’s last name and the Golden Gate Bridge on one side, with three World Series trophies engraved on the other.
“Back to back AL champions” was inscribed on the inside of the Royals‘ 2015 World Series ring, with five white diamonds representing the five runs they scored in the 12th inning to beat the Mets in the fifth and deciding game of the Series.
Some teams have added a personal touch. The Red Sox‘s 2013 ring featured the words “Boston Strong” as a tribute to the community and support following the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon in April that year.
That was a stronger message than the 2004 version after the Red Sox snapped their 88-year title drought. That ring featured the World Series trophy placed at the center of Fenway Park with the words “4-0 sweep” inscribed to commemorate their domination of the Cardinals in the Series.
“When this is over for me, I’ll look at everything,” said Bill Scherrer, the owner of one championship ring as a player (1984 Tigers) and two as a scout (1997 Marlins and 2005 White Sox). “You look back and see all the fond memories you had besides the championship rings.”
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts told USA Today that the players would have input on the design of the championship ring, which could include an engraving of their 103-win season, their first NL pennant since 1945 and/or overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the Indians for the title.
Sutcliffe said he believes the Cubs’ change in attitude and mindset over the last three seasons was key to them ending their championship drought.
“As you walk into the new clubhouse, there’s not that lovable Cubby bear there,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s a full-grown bear. It’s intimidating, and I feel that’s the kind of personality they took on.
“Maybe that full-grown bear would be the thing I put on there.”
Sutcliffe, now a TV analyst, pointed to two incidents that illustrate the Cubs’ new approach: Anthony Rizzo challenging the Reds‘ dugout after Aroldis Chapman nearly beaned two teammates during a game in 2014; then catcher David Ross scolding since-traded Starlin Castro for going through the motions during a rundown drill at Sloan Park in 2015.
“Those were the personalities of that big grizzly bear,” Sutcliffe said.
Also up for debate is who will receive a ring and the quality of the one they receive.
The Royals distributed 700 rings into three “tiers,” with the most elegant and pricey given to players, coaches and executives, followed by full-time employees and part-time workers. The Diamondbacks used a similar system to distribute their 2001 rings, with those on the lower tiers having the option to pay for an upgrade.
Some recipients, such as former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Scherrer, don’t wear the rings in public. Meanwhile, Mike Morgan, a former Cubs pitcher who won a World Series title with the Diamondbacks, ordered the largest ring possible for the sole purpose of putting it in a display case for friends to see.
“Players play, and they win,” Scherrer said. “I still say that, no matter that I’ve scouted for 26 years.
“But it makes it a special feeling for the guys who don’t make a lot of money, travel the roads with amateur scouts, helping make trades for guys you feel you recommended.”