I am being admittedly selfish by saying I felt like I had been robbed after hearing the news this morning that Chicago Cubs legend Ron Santo had passed away. The beloved Cub icon who was memorable for both his career at third base and in the broadcast booth succumbed to complications from bladder cancer last night.
Santo’s broadcast partner Pat Hughes put it best when he said, ‘The Cubs have lost their biggest fan.’ Ron Santo lived, breathed, and bled the Chicago Cubs. He poured his heart and soul into every game.
He never was the prototypical broadcaster – and I loved that about him. Ronnie wasn’t afraid to call things as he saw them. Sometimes that meant criticizing poor play in a way that others might shy away from in an effort to not rock the boat. It also meant wildly cheering when others might refrain from showing too much emotion. And still more it meant agonizing over Cubs defeats in ways that every fan could relate to. For Ron, it hurt when the Cubs lost. For real Cubs fans, despite not being to the World Series in decades and despite not winning one in more than a century, every loss still hurts.
Ron Santo epitomized the plight of Chicago Cubs fans and that is part of what made him such an endearing figure to so many. Who could forget the playoff run in 1998 and Ron’s ‘Oh no!‘ call after Brant Brown dropped that fly ball? I still remember sitting at my desk listening to that call on WGN radio and losing it right along with him. Just heard Hughes tell a story of how Jim Riggleman, the manager of the Cubs at the time, was actually consoling Ron after the game. Not every day you see a manager having to console a broadcaster after a loss but that’s how passionate Ron was about the Cubs.
There were so many other ups and downs that we all experienced with him behind the microphone. He was like an extension of every fan in that booth, except he was the one actually calling the games on the air.
What also made Ron Santo endearing was his effort to increase awareness of diabetes and his charitable work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A sufferer of diabetes himself, Ron did everything he could to help others with the disease. He also did his part to try to find a way to prevent others from suffering a similar fate. His Walk to Cure Diabetes and other efforts raised millions of dollars for diabetes research.
Heard a story on the radio this morning that often times he would be on the phone taking calls from diabetes patients, letting them know what to expect and encouraging them – even as the game had already started. Pretty much sums up what kind of a guy Ronnie was.
Getting back to what I said at the beginning…I really do feel robbed in a way today. Ron Santo was a part of my life and countless other people’s lives, despite the fact that most of us never met him. Selfishly I wish he was still around so I could hear more games with him behind the microphone.
For me Ron Santo meant summer afternoons growing up, listening to the Cubs on the radio while playing outside and hanging out with my family. I love those days. Ron’s passing makes me really long for those days. The memories of those simple summer afternoons being spent with my Mom and Dad and my sister, listening to our favorite team and cheering (and groaning) along with Ronnie as the Cubs took us on their annual journey are priceless to me.
Life most definitely goes on and those of us who bleed Cubbie blue will continue to ride the rollercoaster. It will just be different, that’s all. Ron Santo had a positive attitude like few others out there, he was completely dedicated to what he loved, and was just an all around decent human being. He was a gift to all of us. In the end I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to listen to him all of those times.
Thanks for the memories, Ronnie. Something tells me you’ve already started pulling some strings for us up there in Heaven…maybe this year will finally be our year 🙂