ASTROS FLASHBACK⚾Hoard Of The Rings: Houston Astros Fans’ Love Affair With Replica 2017 World Series Bling
The 2023 season is underway, and the players receiving their rings means that the team will eventually make replica 2022 Champ rings available for fans to collect!
A year ago, the Houston Astros were receiving their rings commemorating their appearance in the 2021 World Series, coming away as the American League Champs!
March 31, 2023, before the game with the Chicago White Sox, was their day to receive the ring for being the 2022 World Series Champions!
Here’s what White Sox manager, Pedro Grifol, said back in January:
Fans will have more than one opportunity, throughout the season, to score their own ‘22 Champ ring replicas. In the meantime, travel back to 2018, when celebrating the 2017 World Series win was all the rage, and the ring was the bling thing!
⚾Portions of this article first appeared in The Runner Sports, September 23, 2018.⚾
“Three thousand years from now, they’ll find all these ancient burial sites around Houston, and every one of us will have that ring on their finger.”
The authentic 2017 Championship ring the Houston Astros earned (and received April 3, 2018 in a pre-game ceremony) for winning 2017’s World Series has been replicated and given away at games by the team to tens of thousands of fans.
That’s the coveted inanimate object referred to above by Houston attorney Pat Mizell that has recently begun to challenge the love Astros fans have for their endearingly animated players who fill in the orange and blue uniforms.
“I’m putting it in my will,” Mizell, who picked up a ring at a game on Monday (September 17, 2018) and was in line Sunday for another, told the Houston Chronicle recently. “If I don’t give it to my son, I’ll have it buried with me.”
Such unbridled devotion may seem to border on fanaticism run amok, but that opinion would identify you as a non-Astro-fan.
Related—How the players’ ring was crafted:
Longtime Chronicle scribe, David Barron, explained this new phenomenon with the measured care of a paleontologist: “In the eye of the beholder, this replica of the Astros’ World Series championship ring undergoes a remarkable, emotional form of alchemy — transformed from stadium giveaway to cherished treasure that fans will bequeath from generation to generation or, in some cases, take with them to the great beyond.”
The ring giveaway on September 23, 2018 was the sixth time that season thousands of Astros fans lined up outside Minute Maid Park to receive the specially-marked cuboid, inside which, snuggled between two formed chunks of styrofoam, is a plastic-wrapped 2.5-ounce mound of zinc alloy and acrylic that probably cost less to manufacture than Torchy’s Rebel Yell grilled shrimp Taco of the Month.
Coupled with an initial distribution of 10,000 in April and similar giveaways throughout the team’s minor league affiliates, the Astros, after Sunday’s fan appreciation day, have distributed more than 250,000 replica rings, a promotional feat without precedent in Major League Baseball.
Put a Ring On It?
By contrast, it doesn’t appear the Chicago Cubs, in 2017, following their World Series victory the previous year, gave away any replica rings, preferring instead, replica trophies, banners, and snow globes. Replica Cubs rings exist, but apparently only as manufactured and marketed memorabilia, rather than offered as Wrigley Field game premiums as gifts to fans encouraging them to share in the celebration.
Before a game in April 2015, the San Francisco Giants gave away 40,000 replica rings, helping fans celebrate the team’s 2014 World Championship. The Boston Red Sox also gave a commemorative ring away to all fans in attendance in May 2014 to celebrate the 2013 World Series champs:
“In the process,” Barron asserts, “just as the Astros’ front office and scouting staff have helped change the way teams evaluate players with their emphasis on analytics, teams are likely to take lessons from the Astros’ marketing staff on how to ride the wave of a genuine grass-roots phenomenon.”
In other words, teams are doubtless taking copious notes on what giveaway items fans will go out of their way to obtain a game ticket for. Down Houston way, it’s been the magical ring. The numbers don’t lie.
“We knew the fans would love this,” said Anita Sehgal, the team’s vice president for marketing and communications (pictured above). “But, did we expect they would be so excited that we could do this (replica ring giveaways) so many times and sell out every time and have people show up every time? We did not expect that.”
When the Astros conceived their promotional calendar last November, Sehgal said they initially planned for a single ring giveaway during the first homestand in April (similar to the Giants’ in 2015), with only the first 10,000 fans through the turnstiles receiving the replicas.
Fans lined up hours in advance of game time to claim the coveted rings. It’s at that point that team officials realized they had a ring of fire on their hands in terms of promotional opportunities, and a handful of giveaway dates were added.
What Am I Bid?
For the many thousands of fans who adore their finger decorations as a symbol of the decades of bad baseball finally overcome, the notion that rings have sold on eBay by recipients for several hundreds of dollars must come as a psychic blow.
But, that’s the cynical side of what most fans and certainly the team have optimistically wrapped themselves up in: The positive and shared vibe of success they know their favorite Astros players are experiencing.
Do you really think that when Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman are out on the town schmoozing the maître d’ at Hugo’s, they’re not proudly doing so with their diamond-encrusted gold ring that looks just like yours?
To their credit, the Astros have tapped into the zeitgeist of shared triumph, and while the cynic might sniff at a callous money grab, the long-suffering and dedicated Astro fans, their suitably-adorned digits now numbering well over a quarter of a million, can impress others and glow with pride with just a wave of their hand….a hand that has happily clapped for their hometown heroes thousands of times, win or lose.
And, Now I’m One
In a stroke of generosity, other organizations have to marvel at (if not quake at the logistical nightmare therein), how various levels of Houston’s minor league system have participated in the replica ring handout.
Seizing on that opportunity (and the less expensive game ticket), I motored my way to the August 26, 2018 game at Whataburger Field, for a Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks game. Fans were told in advance that all 10,000 ticket-holders would receive a ring.
Where bobbleheads and tote bags have a customary “first 1,500 fans” edict, team brass is to be commended for, again, making so many prized items available, but also doing so safely and conveniently, minus the overnight camping to jockey for position for limited pieces, to say nothing of any disgruntled fans who may have slotted just outside the lucky-number limit.
Deciding to wait before opening my box, I spoke with a fan who was already wearing his, and was stunned by the sheer size, indeed, seemingly the exact shape and size of the authentic one the players have. “Gee, I bet the players are envious!” I blurted.
He let me try his on and I realized immediately I’d need a plastic fitter attached to have the somewhat over-sized ring fit what are fairly thin fingers.
In a private ceremony in my car following the game, I carefully extracted my prize, tried it on, and quietly remembered Mom, Dad, and my brother. This was for them. The four of us regularly packed blankets and cans of “Off!” and put up with the insufferable humidity and mosquitos at many Colt .45s games in the early ‘60s before enjoying many dozens of games comfortably ensconced in the air-conditioned Astrodome, beginning in 1965 (when I was 10).
Related: Baseball games weren’t the only things my family and I enjoyed at the Dome:
Fellowship of the Rings
“We decided immediately to do a second giveaway because of the excitement from champions weekend and how emotional people were and how surprised they were about the look and quality of the replica,” Sehgal continued.
“Fans said that one [distribution] wasn’t enough and that we needed to do more. So we announced the second giveaway [for June 20], and that game sold out in 90 minutes. That’s when we realized there would be enough fan interest to do it again.”
“One of the most instructive parts of Astros Ring Fever,” Barron explains, “has been their timing of the giveaways. The team generally stages most of its promotional giveaways on weekends, but four of the six ring handouts were on Mondays or Wednesdays, which are among the most lightly-attended game nights.
“For 15 non-giveaway home dates on Monday and Wednesday this year (not including the April 2 home opener), the Astros averaged 30,996 spectators. The four weekday [ring] giveaway games were all sellouts with an average crowd of 42,793, meaning the Astros drew 47,000-plus fans more than the norm for those four dates.”
The replica rings were produced by Success Awards, a company in suburban St. Louis that produces rings, apparel, hats, bags, bobbleheads, and other promotional items for professional, college, and high school clients.
Sehgal said the Astros placed five orders for what became the largest ring order in Success Awards’ history, out-distancing a two-night order of 100,000 rings from the hometown Cardinals.
The Astros, understandably, have not disclosed the price they paid for the replica rings, but a catalog on the company website lists prices in the $12-apiece-range for an order of a thousand rings of various designs. While the Astros’ ring was a custom design, of course, the team’s record-setting order most likely produced a price adjustment well in the team’s favor.
Made of Honor
The replica rings were constructed of six separate pieces, including the orange and blue face behind the beveled star “H” and replicas of the World Series trophy and the city’s skyline on the sides. The ring itself is zinc alloy with gold and silver plating, and the stones encircling the face are an acrylic base.
“It’s a memento for the city of Houston,” Phil Pieri of Houston told the Chronicle. He said he was going to give his ring to his father-in-law. “He’s been a Houstonian his whole life, and it’s a big deal to win a World Series,” said Shelley Pieri. “This is a treasure.”
“It was as loud and as crowded as any of the playoff games,” Mizell, the lawyer, said, reflecting on his giveaway game night and its postseason atmosphere. “It struck me that there were 42,000 people here who now have one of the most prized possessions of their lives, and it’s this silly trinket.”
Trinket, maybe, but far from silly.
“It’s a little giveback to the fans for being loyal to us and supporting us,” said pitcher Dallas Keuchel at the time.
“It’s about pride,” former Astros outfielder George Springer concurred. “You have people who grew up here waiting for a championship, and we got them one. They want a piece of the action to share with their grandparents and parents who were Astros fans.”