Bill Conlin: It's time for Phillies to stop celebrating, get on with 2009 season

A fan holds up a World Series sign before the Phillies' 2009 Opening Night game.
A fan holds up a World Series sign before the Phillies' 2009 Opening Night game.
Posted: April 10, 2009

PHILLIES GOT the rings. Braves gave the fingers. Until the bottom of the seventh, that is, when a bat-around plus four made Atlanta's 10-3 lead go away faster than a family-of-four $100 bill on Ashburn Alley.

Three letters came to mind when I saw the TV closeup of clubby/traveling sec Frank Coppenbarger hefting his 2008 World Series ring, featuring the High Hopes Diamonds. All 103 of them. Touch 'em all, Ruth Madoff. You will never see a bigger ring the rest of your life. Hell, in her elegant prime, twig-thin Audrey Hepburn could have worn Ryan Howard's as a waistband.

Oh, yeah . . . The three letters that came to mind were RSI, as in Repetitive Strain Injury. Steve Carlton used to keep a 5-pound lead baseball in his locker for various arm-motion drills. Now, Charlie Manuel's pitchers can eliminate the middle man, just slip on the World Series ring, go through a few dozen reps of their motions and count it as a bullpen session, right?

The biggest trophy ring I had seen before this one was presented to former Phils Minister of Trade Hugh Alexander by the Chicago Cubs. It commemorated his 50 years in scouting for the Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox and Cubs. The bodacious bauble had a huge diamond in the middle and the logos of each organization were assigned a quarter of the top surface. I never read all the writing and I suspect Uncle Hughie never did, either. But everything was on there but the six names of his seven wives (one, he married twice).

Well, that massive memento was a Cracker Jack prize compared to this one. You could easily envision King John of

England in 1215 dipping something similar in hot wax to seal the Magna Carta. Or the Founding Fathers, when sanctifying the Declaration of Independence, might have used a seal of such magnificence had there been such bodacious bling in the deprived 13 Colonies that rebelled against British rule.

There is only one other Phillies World Series ring, of course. Paul Owens, the GM who built the 1980 Phillies from virtual scratch, died wearing his. Ditto owner Bob Carpenter, whose son Ruly wears his proudly. You can believe that modest ring - World Series Lite compared to this bejeweled manhole cover - was on a lot of fingers during Wednesday's ring ceremony. Dallas Green was surely wearing one. As were Bill Giles, Dave Montgomery, Larry Shenk and other 1980 vets. Monty headed the committee that did the Citius, Altius, Fortius number on this self-conscious design. But I'll bet he'll still be shaking hands with his 1980 ring in place for years to come. And, come to think of it, a man with a strong grip could be charged with assault after pressing the flesh with this knuckle-buster. Uh, no thanks, Ryan, a plain "Howyadoin' " will be fine.

During a difference of opinion on the eve of the 1983 NLCS in Los Angeles, Owens' '80 ring opened a small cut on the left cheekbone of Phillies director of minor leagues Jim Baumer. Had he been wearing this Enola Gay of finger hardware, both Baumer and The Pope might have wound up in the nearest ER - Jim with a busted head, Paul with a busted hand. And the world diamond markets in disarray.

The 1980 ring, by the way, featured 96 fewer diamonds than this 3.4-carat tribute to King Solomon's Mines. Seven tiny sparklers in a similar script "P" that radiated from a tiny ruby baseball. Put them side-by-side and it is Kmart meets Tiffany's. This edition came in a handsome box that could comfortably hold a starting lineup's worth of navy blue Balfour boxes housing the 1980 rings in Senior Class familiarity. Any Balfour box is a painful reminder that I sent my high school ring to a girl who had dumped me by the time it arrived in her mail. I think she collected them like a '50s New York Yankees wife. The 2008 ring is in 14-carat white gold. The '80 ring was in 14-carat yellow gold. A cluster of 3.4-carat medium-grade diamonds is worth about $8,000. Don't let the weight of the gold fool you. Gold purity is diluted during various processes from the original 24-carat mint stuff the way booze is watered down in a Cancun spring-break joint. Still, these probably are the priciest in MLB history.

Now, it's time to turn off the celebration, Monty. Trouble with the nonstop "Look At Us" fest that has raged since the final out of Game 5 is that your managers and players were over it by the end of a great parade that was a thrill we will all carry for the rest of our lives. The wretched excess since then - the daily photo ops and infomercial-level exploitation - has not been fair to Charlie Manuel, his coaches, his players and the field and front-office people charged with trying to make it all happen again. It is easy to see as the athletes are trotted out for round after round of increasingly tough-to-watch tributes why so few teams repeat in this era of commerce-driven celebration. You can almost hear the hand carts clattering the boxes of "Ring" apparel to the 2008 Logoterias even as the champions were taking their bows.

I thought this team showed a hell of a lot of character coming back from that mortal-lock loss Wednesday, particularly while using the grind-it-out patience that was the Phillies' modus during the 11-3 October run.

Next, a Rockies opener in Denver followed by a grand finale to months of wretched excess Tuesday at the White House.

Then, for God's sake, Monty, put a lid on it. Try to remember what Joe Paterno requires his Penn State players to do after they score a touchdown. Hand the football to the ref. Act as if you've been there before - even though in this case, the Phillies have only been there twice in 126 years.

Enough is enough. *

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