Friday, December 03, 2010

A Cubbie for All Time

The sad, but not entirely unexpected news that Cub great and radio broadcaster Ron Santo died yesterday from complications related to bladder cancer. Santo had also suffered from diabetes for many years.

Born and bred a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I grew up when Santo played third base for the Cubs. In the Sixties the Cardinals won the pennant so often it seemed like a birth right or a natural event like the changing of the seasons. I didn't realize until the Cards were suffering through a 14-year drought that winning pennants wasn't foreordained.

Ron Santo and the infamous black cat curse at Shea Stadium.

Of course, Cubs fans could do a 14-year losing streak standing on their heads. It's hard to believe that a team with Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ernie Banks didn't make the World Series. (Was there ever another team with three Hall of Famers that never made the World Series?).

Santo was one of the very best players not in the baseball Hall of FameWillamsJenkins, and Banks are all in the Hall of Fame, but not Santo. Bill James, among many others has made the argument that Santo deserves to be in the Hall. It would be a damned shame if they put him in when he can't enjoy it because it clearly would have meant so much to him. The only greater shame would be not putting him.

The guy lived and breathed for the Cubs and baseball. I always enjoyed listening to him on WGN radio because he put his heart on the line every single game the Cubs played (not a wise thing to do with the Cubs involved). He was an awful announcer in a lot of ways, but his passion made you want to listen. His "Oh, nooooo' call always made you wonder exactly what was happening, but left no doubt that it was bad for the Cubs.

Hear the Oh, nooo call. I was at this game - the call is from the infamous Brant Brown game in Milwaukee when Bronw let a flyball clang off his glove and almost cost the Cubs a spot in the playoffs. The look on the faces of the Cub fans was priceless.

Santo was a great player, but what stood out for me in later years was listening to his unbridled enthusiasm knowing that here was a guy being gradually whittled down by diabetes. He had multiple amputations and you knew he had to be suffering, but you couldn't tell by listening to him. 


More on why Santo belongs in the Hall:

The lovable loser Cubs have a myriad of curses to explain their chronic ineptness. One of the better ones involves the black cat pictured above.

Wikipedia describes the events:

On September 9, 1969, the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets faced each other at Shea Stadium. The Cubs' division lead over the Mets had dropped to just 1.5 games, and this game was considered to be critical. Midway through the game, fans surreptitiously released a black cat onto the field. The cat headed straight for the Cubs' Ron Santo in the on-deck circle, then made a beeline for the Cubs' dugout where it seemed to stare down all of the players. Cubs manager Leo Durocher's superstitions were borne out, as the Cubs not only lost that game, but much of the rest of the season, as they would post an 8-17 record for the month and ultimately lose the National League East to the Mets by eight games.

ou can buy the autographed black cat photo at:

1 comment:

  1. Nice writeup! I always got a kick out of listening to Santo and Pat Hughes. Hughes is polished to the point of sounding fake while Santo was quite the opposite. You always knew it was coming from the heart though.