CHICAGO -- John Vincent was already on an emotional roller coaster last January when he received a phone call with news -- happy news -- that he wasn't expecting. And he couldn't believe he was hearing.The call was from Cubs manager of game and events production Jim Oboikowitch, who informed
CHICAGO -- John Vincent was already on an emotional roller coaster last January when he received a phone call with news -- happy news -- that he wasn't expecting. And he couldn't believe he was hearing.
The call was from Cubs manager of game and events production Jim Oboikowitch, who informed Vincent, a Wrigley Field fixture as a regular anthem singer, that he would be receiving a World Series ring from the team.
The unexpected gesture overwhelmed Vincent, who had spent the previous couple of months reveling in the Cubs' World Series win, while at the same time caring for a terminally ill cousin battling cancer.
Finding out he would be the recipient of one of several hundred rings the Cubs were giving to non-uniformed personnel was a moment he was able to share with his cousin, who passed away shortly after.
"[Oboikowitch] called me in January to say, 'John, you're getting a World Series ring,'" Vincent said on Tuesday, after he was presented with his ring. "They said, 'Tell your cousin you're getting a ring.'" She was crying. She's a huge Cubs fan. It was just an emotional thing."
Prior to performing the anthem before Tuesday's Cubs game against the Brewers, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney presented Vincent with his ring.
"I hugged him about four or five times," Vincent said. "There was a lot of hugging going on. I just kept hugging him. He's like, 'John, you're part of the family.' I was shaking. I said, 'Thank you.'"
A total of 1,908 rings and pins are to be distributed to Cubs players, coaches, ownership, executives, front office associates, ballpark staff, partners and Hall of Fame alumni, including posthumous rings for the late Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, which will be saved in the Wrigley Field archives.
Vincent is one of two anthem singers to receive a ring. Wayne Messmer, a staple of anthem performances at Wrigley Field dating back to the mid-1980s, is the other. He was scheduled to receive his on Wednesday.
Vincent is well-known in Chicago and among Cubs fans. The local crooner with the deep baritone voice performs regularly at Ditka's restaurant in downtown Chicago, where he sings hits by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, among others. He has an uncanny knack for sounding exactly like whomever he is emulating.
At Cubs games, Vincent is best-known for holding the note that accompanies the "land of the free" segment of the anthem for an extended amount of time. It's been timed at more than 20 seconds on occasion.
Vincent, who has been singing at Wrigley since 2003, performed the anthem at four of eight playoff games at the Friendly Confines last year -- Game 2 of the Division Series, Games 1 and 6 of the National League Championship Series and Game 4 of the World Series.
As comfortable as he is on the field when he's singing, Vincent was visibly overcome during his "ring ceremony" on Tuesday.
"What an unbelievable organization," he said.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.