SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants knew the 2012 World Series championship rings they received in Sunday's pregame ceremony represented more than just pieces of jewelry.
Each is an everlasting memento of a historic postseason, a tribute to a great American city and a symbol of one of baseball's crown jewel franchises -- literally and figuratively.
Composed of white gold, the rings feature the familiar interlocking "SF" logo formed by 52 yellow-gold, 14-karat round diamonds. The ring's bezel reads "World Champions" along the top and bottom. Seven more round diamonds line each side of the ring to represent the franchise's seven Series titles.
One shank of the ring features the recipient's name and jersey number and a rendition of a San Francisco cable car. The other shank denotes the three postseason series the Giants captured to win baseball's biggest prize -- a surge that included a record-tying six consecutive victories in elimination games.
As was the case when the Giants won the 2010 title, the rings were designed and produced by Tiffany & Co., which encrusted 144 diamonds upon each one.
The 11 Giants present who performed on both the 2010 and 2012 teams knew what to anticipate as the ring ceremony approached. But they savored it as if it were the first time.
"A lot of guys chase that ring and a lot of guys don't achieve it," said left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who's among the Giants' two-time champions. "To get two of them -- there are a lot of people from that 2010 team who should feel very, very fortunate."
A trio of Giants who pursued that ring with passion and distinction gathered in clubhouse manager Mike Murphy's office about an hour before the ceremony began: Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. They would receive honorary rings, along with fellow Cooperstown inductees and Giants legends Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey. Marichal and Perry wore the Series rings they received in 2010. But Perry sounded eager to accept another one.
"I've been waiting 50 years to get one of these," he said.
Mays tried on one of the commemorative caps, featuring gold lettering, that the Giants wore for Sunday's series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals. The caps matched the special jerseys bearing gold lettering that players donned for the occasion. That authentic collection of caps and jerseys is now available at the MLB.com Shop.
"I'm looking for a cap that fits," said Mays -- a fitting remark from the peerless center fielder whose headgear often flew off when he raced toward a fly ball or around the basepaths.
The Giants could have used a youthful Mays and his colleagues Sunday afternoon. San Francisco lost to the Cardinals, 14-3. Matt Cain pitched three perfect innings before yielding nine fourth-inning runs, matching a career high. Nevertheless, Cain said he and his teammates will "try to remember it as a good day of getting our rings and being excited about that."
About 40 minutes before gametime, the rings arrived at AT&T Park on a motorized cable car, escorted by two San Francisco police officers on motorcycles. Fans rose out of respect, as if the procession were a color guard. Entering the park through the left-field gate, the car stopped short of the Giants' bullpen and disgorged seven cable-car operators, carrying the rings on silver trays. They marched to foul territory outside third base and ceremoniously laid the trays on tables as violinist Dick Bright's orchestra serenaded them with "San Francisco." Nearby, at home plate, rested the 2012 World Series trophy atop a pedestal.
Groups of people holding oversized cutouts of seven gold stars, emblematic of the franchise's Series titles, aligned themselves on the grass just beyond the infield.
Resplendent in a tuxedo, Giants president and chief executive officer Larry Baer distributed the first ring to general manager Brian Sabean. Manager Bruce Bochy came next.
Players and coaches trotted to assigned places on the baselines between first and second and second and third bases after Baer presented them their rings -- the moment that many of them had awaited since the final out of last October's World Series sweep over Detroit.
"Honestly, it was hard to sleep last night," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "I thought about it a lot. I woke up thinking about it quite a bit this morning."
The infield dirt was packed with Giants, since 21 members of the active 25-man squad were on last year's postseason roster.
"It definitely brings back the camaraderie," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "That's my favorite thing about baseball, having goals to accomplish together -- how we were united with our minds and with our play. That's what team sports are all about. I'm truly grateful."
Conspicuous by his absence was right-hander Brian Wilson, the former Giants closer who was invited to the ceremony. Wilson is currently rehabilitating his injured throwing elbow and is a free agent.
One alumnus who did attend was former first baseman Aubrey Huff, who received a warm ovation. Huff, who retired after receiving no serious offers to continue playing, said that he felt honored "to be a part of the golden era here in San Francisco." He recalled being able to stroll through the city anonymously when he joined the Giants in 2010.
"Now it's nuts," Huff said. "It's definitely a baseball city."
Recognizing that, Giants players collectively threw the ceremonial first pitch by tossing baseballs into the stands. The ballclub thus acknowledged the fans who "have been excited about us coming back to town," Cain said. "We've been excited, too."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.