Everybody knows about the Vince Lombardi trophy in football, given to the team that wins the Super Bowl each year. I remember the sad spectacle of how the trophy was groped and fondled as it was being carried to the NFL’s commissioner after the most recent Super Bowl. And the Stanley Cup, well, that goes without saying. If the Cup could talk, I’m sure it would have some fascinating stories to tell of the places that it’s been through the years.
And the Larry O’Brien trophy, given to the NBA champions each season, became a common sight in Chicago two decades ago. The image of Michael Jordan clutching the first trophy he won, while pressing his forehead against the basketball on the top, forever consecrated the trophy as far as Chicago fans were concerned.
But what about baseball’s championship emblem? Like the Lombadi trophy, it dates back to 1967, which means the NFL’s trophy made its public debut in January, a few months before MLB’s trophy in October. And, like the Lombardi Trophy, it was designed and produced by Tiffany & Company. The similarities between the two trophies are hard to miss.
I’ve never seen the Commissioner’s trophy (as it’s called) on a baseball card before, other than the image of Mike Scioscia shown above. This was taken at the end of the 2002 World Series, which was the Angels franchise’s only win to date. They made the playoffs that year as a wild card team, which all by itself could have been a great season for a team that wasn’t picked to do very well before the season started.
But the Rally Monkey, and those irritating thundersticks, became etched into baseball history that fall, as the Angels went all the way to the Word Series, where they defeated the Giants in the only all-wild card World Series to date. And Mike Scioscia got to carry the trophy around as a result.
Looking at Scioscia, holding the trophy that I as a Cubs fan have only ever seen on the South Side of town, I know exactly what he’s thinking: “Kiss my ass, I won this thing. I won two of these things with the Dodgers as a player (in 1981 and 1988), but now I get to say that I won as a manager, too. 43 years old, and my managing legacy is firmly established, whatever happens after this.”
And what’s happened since then has been pretty remarkable, from a manager’s perspective. Unlike his 2002 World Series opponent, Dusty Baker, who left the Giants and is now on his second team since then, Scioscia has stayed put in Los Angeles. He’s won five division titles, and a second Manager of the Year title, to go with the one he collected in 2002. In a job where a losing record gets you bounced in a hurry, Scioscia has endured in one place.
And now, as a manager with LaRussa-like longevity and success, he gets to manage the game’s greatest player in Albert Pujols. Expectations are through the roof, and Scioscia will doubtlessly take the blame if Pujols pulls a LeBron and fails to deliver a championship. But whatever happens, he’s held the trophy before, and nobody can take that away from him.