Friday, December 03, 2010

Ron Santo

How can someone have heart problems, diabetes, several amputations, bladder cancer, and worse, be a lifelong Cubs fan, and still be the cheeriest person you’ve ever met? That was Ron Santo, and that was his gift. Ron passed away on Thursday. He was 70. The man who lived under the darkest cloud provided the most sunshine for everyone else.

Older readers remember Santo as a Hall of Fame-worthy Cubs’ third baseman. The fact that he’s not in the Hall-of-Fame is yet another injustice he endured with dignity and good cheer.

But more people know him as the Chicago Cubs radio analyst on WGN along with superb partner, Pat Hughes. Ron’s analysis was unique to say the least. Some examples:

Ron: “Ohhhhh no!!!!!”

Ron: “Yeah, baby… yeah baby… YEAH!!!!”

He broke down the game with his heart, as well as his eyes. And the genuine passion he had for the game and the team and the fans made his broadcasts not just informative but special.

He mangled the language but so what? I was listening a couple of months ago and he described a certain catcher as having a “mind like a cannon”. The point is, you knew what he meant. Most of the time.

His banter with partner Pat was pure Abbott & Costello. And then every so often he would make an observation and you’d go, “Whoa! I’ve been following baseball my whole life and I didn’t know that”.

He was always great fun to talk to. And our discussions always got around to his son Jeff, who is a filmmaker. Ron would go on and on about his son, so proud. I remember thinking -- this is how every kid wishes his father would think of him.

His number 10 has been retired. Cub fans will see that at Wrigley Field and be reminded of Ron. They’ll also be reminded of Ron whenever they hear someone laugh, or see someone be kind to someone else.

Ron Santo has died. But he has lived and died with the Cubs his whole life. So dying is nothing new for him. And like all Cub fans know, there’s always a “next year”. Happy New Year, Ron.


Gary said...

A-men. RIP, Ronny.

David said...

Love Ron so much. Now he's clicking his heels at the pearly gates! Loved watching him play and listening to him on the radio. He's the reason I became a Cub fan at the age of 10 (I am 52 now)!
RIP Ron, you were one of the best!

Rob said...

It seems to me as though you've had to write too many of these recently, Ken.

Thanks for sharing.

Mike Bauman said...

When I was preparing for my move to LA over the summer, people kept asking me what I was going to miss about Chicago. My answer was "pizza and hearing the Pat & Ron Show every gameday."

My wife grew up five blocks from Wrigley and has always referred to Harry Caray as "Uncle Harry." I moved to Chicago and became a Cubs fan after Caray's death. I've lost my Uncle Ron.

Tom Quigley said...

I remember Ron Santo playing for the Cubs just as I was starting to take an interest in baseball as a kid. Were it not for the fact that the Cubs were perennial also-rans and that he was playing the same position in the same era as Ken Boyer on the Cardinals, Ken's brother Cletis on the Yankees, and Brooks Robinson on the Orioles, he may have well been thought of as the best third baseman in the game in those days, and would already be in the Hall of Fame.... Well, now he's made it to that Big Hall of Fame... God bless, Ron!

Phillip B said...

The post playing career of Ron Santo, and many of the other members of the 1969 Cubs, may be why they are not remembered as losers - or even as lovable losers.

These guys were true winners and that was one hell of a summer in Wrigley.....everything a young fan could have asked.

benson said...

God Bless, Ron.

Even though I was a Sox fan, Santo was one of my favorite players growing up.

His son Jeff made a film about his dad, This Old Cub, and it should be rebroadcast on WGN America probably soon.

Breadbaker said...

Nice comments, Ken.

As a non-Cubs fan I actually became aware of his talents because I had his disk in All-Star Baseball and no third baseman could keep up with him. It was a great way to learn the value of guys who had power and took walks.

Dexter said...

Ron used a Wilson A2000 glove , so I did. Ron played third base, so I did.
I took two months before I got drafted in '69 and became a Bleacher Bum, and when I left for the army in late August the wheels fell off , and the Mets won.
I had Ron's autograph, I saw him win many games with his high, sailing home runs to the bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue. What a guy.

Omnibabe said...

I listen to WGN radio almost non-stop every weekend. This weekend has been very, very difficult, as it's all Santo all the time. I learned to love baseball listening to Pat and Ron, and it is truly like losing a dear old friend. I've laughed a lot, gotten choked up often and wept more than a few times.

Godspeed, Ronnie. You are dearly missed already.