Well worth the wait to see World Series Trophy

Posted: February 13, 2009

AT THE END OF a very long line at the Moorestown Mall stood Barbara McCabe, who by her own count has been a Phillies fan for 60 years. She had come out on this Saturday to get an up-close look at the 2008 World Series Trophy and held in her hand the last remaining ticket the club distributed, which would entitle her and her companion to stand with the shimmering award and have their photo snapped. Given the size of the crowd that was ahead of her, it looked like it was shaping up to a wait of an hour or more.

But who cared?

Heck, it had been 28 years since the Phillies had given her a trophy.

So what if the agony would be prolonged another hour or so?

"Is it worth the wait?" says McCabe, who remembers following the Whiz Kids at Shibe Park in 1950. "It certainly is!"

Officially, the piece is called "The Commissioner's Trophy," and it is produced each year for the championship team by Tiffany & Co. Created by a team of artisans in New Jersey of sterling silver and 24-karat gold vermeil, the trophy weighs approximately 24 pounds, stands 24 inches high and has a diameter of 11 inches. Pennants representing each of the 30 National League and American League organizations encircle a dome base, which is etched with latitude and longitude lines symbolizing the globe. Engraved on it are the words, "Presented by the Commissioner of Baseball," along with the signature of reigning chief Bud Selig. Oh yes - and it also comes in a black traveling case, which is padded on the interior and has wheels for easy transportation.

Typically, you would only expect to see such a treasured item on display behind glass, perhaps cushioned by velvet and bathed in golden light. But in an effort to share it with the fans, the Phillies scheduled it for appearances across the Delaware Valley and beyond. The trophy has been flown to Las Vegas for a sales convention held by a sponsor and - gasp! - has even been on display before 20,000 screaming lunatics at the Wing Bowl at the Wachovia Center. When the tour ultimately draws to a close, the Phillies estimate that the trophy will have traveled close to 10,000 miles and will have been seen up close by more than 100,000 fans.

"I think we underestimated not the importance of the trophy but how people have embraced it," says John Brazer, the club publicity director. "The trophy has become a rock star, bigger in that way than any of our players. Honestly, if you asked someone what he would rather do, get his picture taken with the trophy or get an autograph by Cole Hamels, I think the majority of them would rather have their picture taken with the trophy."

Seeing how the young and old just seem to glow when they get up close to the trophy is a wonder to behold. Wearing Phillies caps and jerseys, they look upon the trophy as payback for years of unrequited devotion. Older fans still remember only too well the collapse of 1964 and years of losing that both preceded and followed it. For young fans who remember none of that, the trophy is a symbol of perhaps a better destiny. Given their turn to pose with it for a photograph, men, women and children of every age beam into the camera as if they are standing for a wedding or graduation picture. Says Jamie Trout, the club marketing coordinator: "This whole thing has taken on a life of its own."

Keeping an eye on the trophy wherever it goes is Craig Solomon, who is known variously as the "trophy boy," "trophy czar," "keeper of the trophy" and "trophy trooper." Solomon prefers being called "trophy boy," which has seemed to be the one that has caught on. A Temple graduate and an intern with the club for a year, he looks upon his assignment with the trophy as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." The 22-year-old Solomon and Trout traveled with the trophy to Las Vegas, where club sponsor AutoTrader.com held its convention. In case you were wondering, no, they did not check the trophy as baggage.

"Oh, no, that is one piece of luggage we did not want to lose," Trout says with a laugh. "We had a seat for it and buckled it in."

First class?

"Coach," says Trout, who added that it was screened through security by special arrangement. "We usually have it in a Tiffany bag, but we did not want to draw attention to it. So we had another bag over it. On the way out we told people it was an antique lamp. Going back we said it was an instrument."

Solomon adds that the trophy even had its own room at the hotel where they stayed. He says, "Someone was always with it."

Given the $15,000 value of the trophy, it would be understandable that theft is a concern. But Brazer says it is not a significant worry, although he adds with a chuckle: "Maybe we should be more aware of it. The Phillie Phanatic has had its head stolen." Of course, Brazer says that the head was left alone, whereas the trophy never is. Club personnel is always with it, along with the security at whatever venue the trophy happens to be on display. But one abiding concern is that it is shown in a dignified manner, which is why Trout said there were some internal discussions when the subject of bringing it to Wing Bowl came up.

"We wanted to be sure the trophy was shown in - how shall I say this? - in a manner that is consistent with the Phillies messages," says Trout. "We did not want to see it handled by someone who had consumed 100 wings and was green in the face."

But it worked out just fine. No one threw up on it. The even better news was the fans were delighted to see it. Wearing a Phillies jacket and white gloves, Solomon held the trophy over his head and carried it to the lip of the stage, or as Brazer had said earlier: "Not anywhere near Arson Arnie or any of those other knuckleheads." As Brazer looked on from near a side exit, Solomon held the trophy as the national anthem was sung. Surrounded by police, the two then hustled the trophy out of the Wachovia Center and into their car. That Friday before the Super Bowl, there would be three more appearances.

Is Trout concerned that such an intense schedule will affect the physical integrity of the trophy?

He says Tiffany has sent him a "cleaning kit" to handle fingerprints. Solomon cleans it once a week. In the event of any scratches, Trout says Tiffany has assured the club they can be buffed. Trout adds that the trophy does not yet have any problems in that area, but concedes: "It is a little bit of a concern."

But Trout should not be unduly concerned, according to Tom O'Rourke, the vice president for business sales for Tiffany. O'Rourke says that in creating the trophy, "we try to give some consideration to handling. Typically, when it is presented, it is passed from player to player; champagne is poured over it . . . so the trophy is stress tested so that it can hold up under that environment. It is relatively fragile, but it is sturdy enough to handle the wear and tear of the road."

Except if it happens to land on the road.

O'Rourke says that one team's trophy fell off a parade float. He would not say what team that was.

"But they sent it back and we fixed it," he says. "[The trophy] is fairly resilient, but ultimately, display in a glass case is the safest place for it."

But the 2008 World Series Trophy still has stops. In fact, the more places it goes, the more people want to see it. Brazer says the club has been inundated with requests, including from someone who wanted to display it at a bar mitzvah. But as Trout says, "Our goal is for as many people to see it as we can. Hopefully, we will leave more people happy than unhappy."

The fans who show up at the Moorestown Mall are certainly happy. Jeff Selnick, of Cinnaminson, N.J., plans to get his picture taken with the trophy on this day. With him is his wife, Laura, and her sister, Terry Walker, who says: "I have been looking forward to this for years. I have lived and died with this team."

And what does Jeff plan to do with his picture of the trophy?

He laughs and says, "Send it to my cousin in Chicago. She is a Cubs fan." *

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