GRANGER, Ind. — Jimmy Reynolds, the owner of Jimmy’s Pizza and Ribs in Granger, was knee-deep in flour and smelling like green peppers and pepperoni when a guy from Cleveland and his two buddies walked in to order.
“You need to go get it,” another customer quietly told him.
Jimmy gave it a quick thought and then smiled. “OK, I’ll be back in just a minute,” he said and walked out the back door.
He lives exactly 80 steps behind his pizza place and so he really was back in a minute. But he probably weighed about a pound more when he returned.
That’s because of the beautiful but bulky ring he was wearing on his left hand. It was a Chicago Cubs World Series championship ring and he made sure he put it right under the nose of the guy from Cleveland when he set down his pizza.
“Yeah, I’m not really into braggadocio — if that’s the word — but I was flaunting it a little in front of those three,” he says.
In case you’re not a baseball fan, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in last fall’s one-for-the-ages World Series, ending the Cubs’ 108-year championship drought.
Jimmy’s ring — yes, the real McCoy — made an impression but not so much on the guy from Cleveland. “He ended up being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan,” Jimmy says. “But his buddies were Cub fans.”
Of course, they had to try it on. “One even had tears in his eyes when he had a picture taken with it on his finger,” Jimmy adds. “They loved it.”
And Jimmy loves it, too, even though he usually keeps the ring in a safe — bringing it out only for requests made by his wife, daughters or friends to show it off.
So how did he end up with a Chicago Cubs championship ring?
For the last seven years, Jimmy has worked as a clubhouse man — “a clubbie” — at Coveleski Stadium and took care of the South Bend Cubs’ home clubhouse last season. That made him an employee of the Chicago Cubs’ organization and one of a handful of recipients in town who got a ring.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” admits Jimmy, who has friends and family members run his pizza place on the days that the South Bend Cubs are home. “For somebody like (Cubs owner) Tom Ricketts to include the ‘clubbie’ at the low A minor league team in this honor is pretty awesome.”
What makes the ring even more special is that Jimmy is a die-hard Cubs fan. “I married into that,” he says. “My wife Lisa’s family always loved the Cubs, especially her father, Ron Grontkowski.”
Jimmy, now 54, admits he didn’t have much time to be a sports fan when he was younger. His family owned the Granger Tap & Grill for 30 years and he began bartending as soon he turned 21. “So I was working when everyone else was into the games,” he says. “While they were watching touchdowns on TV, I was pouring shots.”
He has had his own restaurant for eight years now and it has its share of Cubs stuff on the walls. But the championship ring — with the 108 stones, the “We Never Quit” motto and all the scores of the playoffs engraved — mostly stays at home.
“It’s nice to share it with people, though,” he says. “My cousin Mike passed away on May 17, but I took the ring over to him before he died. He put it on and smiled.”
That in itself made having the ring worthwhile.
Someday Jimmy might display the ring with other keepsakes — “like an oil lamp my mom used to do her homework by . a José Canseco bat . cleats given to me by (Cubs prospect) Eloy Jimenez and . well, I have a helmet signed by Charlie Weis that I could do something with.”
Is he predicting another ring at the end of this season? “I can’t get one even if the Cubs win again,” Jimmy says. “I’m the ‘clubbie’ on the visitors’ side this year and so I’m not an employee of the Chicago Cubs.”
One is enough. One is awesome. One is still pretty unbelievable.
Jimmy smiles. “Best present I ever got.”
Source: South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/2rse6kk
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the South Bend Tribune.