Constable: What it was like for suburban fans to deliver World Series rings
On a night when winter temperatures and a brisk wind required Wrigley Field patrons to don parkas, mittens, ski boots and wool caps, nothing warmed a Cubs fan's spirit better than watching their favorite players receive their 2016 World Series rings. Especially for 20 lucky winners of the Championship Ring Bearer Fan Contest, who got to hand-deliver those rings in Wednesday's pregame ceremony.
"I said congratulations and gave him a handshake, and then I asked him for a hug, and he gave it to me," said Melissa Hurd, 37, a teacher from Carol Stream who presented a ring to left fielder Kyle Schwarber. "It was awesome to be face to face with someone who made your dream come true."
Arlington Heights fan Jessie McGinn, 26, says she "sort of squeezed my way in there" to get a hug as she gave reliever Pedro Strop his ring. "Then I went to shake Ryno's (Hall of Fame Cubs legend Ryne Sandburg's) hand, and he went in for a hug. Alright!" McGinn said.
"Hey, Miggy, 'we are good,'" said fan Paul "Crawly" Dzien, 40, of Bartlett, repeating catcher Miguel Montero's mantra during the 2016 season. The Cubs will display rings for Cubs favorites Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, who didn't live long enough to see the Cubs as champs, and Dzien honored both players. He wore a No. 14 T-shirt under his jersey, "and as I walked off the field I clicked my heels three times in honor of Ron Santo."
Mount Prospect's George Wiseman, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran from the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, wore a sign explaining that he can't talk because of treatments for cancer caused by "Agent Orange" chemicals, but he still found a way to express his joy about handing a ring to relief pitcher Justin Grimm. "It was fantastic," he typed on the pad he uses to communicate. "This represents all my bleacher friends and the one that passed away. I will never forget."
While fans all said they were thrilled no matter which player they got to meet, Roselle native Dennis Gieseke, 72, sheepishly admitted that he was a little "down" on his player, Jayson Heyward, last year because of the right fielder's drop in offensive production. But Gieseke says Heyward is hitting better this year, "and I'm going to take credit for that."
Handing a ring to ace pitcher Jon Lester was a little intimidating for Steve Teplinsky, 63, of Mundelein. "He's such a serious guy, but I was really happy to give it to him," Teplinsky said. "I also got to say hi to (Cubs Manager) Joe Maddon, even though we were told not to."
Pitcher Mike Montgomery didn't appear nervous when he got the last out in Game 7 to earn a save as the Cubs won the World Series, but that was not the case for his "ring bearer," Joanne Harrer, 76, of Naperville. "I was so nervous I was holding on to the ring and he had to take it out of my hand," Harrer said. "I told him, 'Great last couple of pitches.'"
More information on the 20 fans who were selected from the more than 1,500 video nominations can be found at cubs.com/cubsringbearer. Other presenters were Jeff Birtell, 58, of DeKalb; Grace Davis, 20, of Jefferson City, Mo.; Alex Dorn, 29, of Chicago; Michael Folsom, 30, of Palos Hills; Lauren Klein, 13, of Peru; Amy Liss, 34, of Downers Grove; Tom Magno, 50, of Chicago; Doug Meyer, 60, of Deerfield; David Morimoto, 55, of Joliet; Bob O'Hara, 38, of Elkhart, Ind.; Erv Schreiber, 86, of Indianapolis; Jimmy Thurman, 90, of Kewanee; and Tom Wakefield, 48, from Brownsburg, Ind.
The Cubs will give a total of 1,908 rings and pins to players, coaches, ownership, executives, front office associates, ballpark staffers, partners and Hall of Fame alumni. The rings distributed Wednesday are 14-karat white gold, with a Cubs logo made from 33 red rubies framed by 72 white diamonds, on a background made of 46 blue sapphires, and surrounded by 108 white diamonds, which signifies the 108 years since the last championship in 1908.
And, in one final swipe at history, the inside of the band also includes an image of the infamous goat blamed for the "curse" that kept the Cubs from winning.