I was wondering how it is decided who gets a World Series ring. Of course, the players and coaching staff do, but who else? A hitting coach for a Red Sox minor league team lives across the street from my cousin and he said he was going to get a ring. Can you shed some light on this? -- Bill Craft, of Fort Russell
That's a tough answer to put a finger on, because such decisions are made by each owner, and their generosity can run the gamut.
I can tell you, however, that it might be best to be in the Red Sox organization if you want to share in the post-season bling fling. After not winning a Series since 1918, the Bosox in 2004 went crazy, folks, by handing out 500 rings to players, coaches, management and a raft of other employees.
"That's so beyond the record it's unbelievable," Al Nuness, of ring-manufacturer Jostens, told the Boston Globe at the time. "The most we've ever done for a championship ring in the past has been the Patriots when they first won their (Super Bowl) rings (in 2002). That was about 225."
And what rings they were. Fashioned from white gold, they boasted dozens of diamonds and the authentic "B" logo done up in rubies. Jostens said they did 15 test models before being given final approval. Final price tag: $30,000.
And, let's not forget the Florida Marlins, which handed out the largest, most expensive -- and, many say, tackiest -- ring ever when the Fish won their last Series in 2003. Team owner Jeff Luria himself designed a fashion statement made of 14-karat gold with 16-karat inlay, 13 rubies, 229 diamonds and a rare teal diamond as the eye of the Marlins logo. Cost: $46,000 but now appraised at upwards of $65,000.
On the other hand, you have the late Charlie Finley, colorful owner of the Oakland Athletics. After winning the Series in 1972, he handed out $3,800 rings topped with a full-carat diamond, but he promised to make that look like "a dime-store ring" if the team repeated as champions.
Well, it did -- not just once but twice in 1973 and 1974. But Finley went back on his promise both times, handing out rings topped by inexpensive green glass. The reason? Finley said he had received only three thank-you notes in 1972 and was hurt by the ingratitude. For his slight, players gave him more ingratitude. Reggie Jackson reportedly called them "trash rings."
Finley's snub left a black mark on what has been a tradition for 125 years. If you go to www.worldseriesrings.net, you can inspect post-season jewelry -- including every ring -- handed out since 1879, when the Providence Greys won the National League.
You also can find the pin earned by the Detroit Wolverines of the National League when they topped the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1887 in a best-of-15 battle for the first Dauvary Cup -- named for actress Helen Dauvary, the significant other of New York Giant great John Montgomery Ward. (You also can see a scorecard proudly proclaiming it to be the "Worlds (sic) Championship Series" even way back then.)
Through 1921, modern World Series winners were given a variety of commemorative keepsakes, including pins and pocket watches. Then, in 1922, the New York Giants handed their players the first World Series ring with a single diamond in a gold baseball field after they dumped the Yankees.
The Yankees went back to watches in 1923, but when the St. Louis Cardinals beat New York for their first title in 1926, the Birds started the annual ring tradition. It's a tradition that continues even though Grover Cleveland Alexander reportedly hocked his 1926 ring so often that Rachael Breadon, wife of the Cardinals' owner, sent out a blanket promise to all pawn shops that she would redeem it whenever he came in.
It's only fitting, then, that a St. Louis native -- Yogi Berra -- reportedly has earned the most rings (15) as a player and coach, according to Sports Illustrated. In the past, though, players have requested other items including cuff links, tie bars -- and shotguns (which the Yanks apparently gave quietly to Frankie Crosetti and Tommy Henrich).
But as the rings have grown gaudier, they've understandably become increasingly prized. Each 2011 Cardinal ring, for example, had 103 diamonds weighing 2.62 carats and 50 rubies in the "STL," "11," and Cardinal bird. It was individualized with the player's name, uniform number -- and rally squirrel.
A Jostens spokeswoman said the company generally does not release how many are made, but I can tell you San Francisco gave Bengie Molina a ring in 2010 even though he had been traded and played the World Series for Texas. The same would have been true for Arthur Rhodes had Texas beat St. Louis in 2011.
And, in 2010, the first ring San Francisco handed out was to equipment manager Mike Murphy, who had started as a bat boy in 1958.
Final World Series question: Who overcame a traumatic childhood mishap to hit the deciding home run in St. Louis' victory over the Yankees in 1942?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: After 109 World Series, only one man has twice hit three home runs in one game. Who was it? Well, who else could it be but the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth -- and he did it both times against the St. Louis Cardinals. When the Cards won their first series in 1926, they did it despite the Bambino crushing three home runs in Game 4 at Sportman's Park in St. Louis. But the Yankees got their revenge in 1928 when they swept the Birds thanks in part to another three-home-run effort from Ruth in the final game in St. Louis. Since then, three other players have hit three home runs in one game once -- the Yankees' Reggie Jackson in 1977, St. Louis' Albert Pujols in 2011 and San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval just last year. Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Reggie Jackson are tied for most home runs in a series, five; Mickey Mantle leads in career homers with 18.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.