Today I went to the Chicago Tribune’s website and got punched in the stomach. Ron Santo had died – I then went immediately to View From the Bleachers and fortunately Joe had already posted an article.
As a kid I grew up in Clarendon Hills, IL – we moved there in 1968 when I was a fifth grader. Ron Santo became an immediate favorite – he was a vacuum cleaner at third and he, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert and Ernie Banks were probably the best defensive corps in the National League. They made so many unbelievable plays that you got used to them. And got spoiled by them too. Ronnie might have alienated other players when he clicked his heels twice after Cubs victories in Wrigley – something that might have cost him his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Some players felt that this was disrespectful but Ron was just showing his own jubilation in front of the fans that he loved. And they loved him too.
Years after he retired I began listening to him on WGN – he was not a “professional broadcaster” per se but he spoke to us who were long term Cubs fans. He felt what we felt and then some. We watched the Cubs for years and many of us would mute the TV coverage when road broadcasters were on so we could listen to our friends Pat Hughes and Ron. I would even hit the pause button on my DVR so that Pat and Ron would be “in sync” with the broadcast. Two classy guys and I hope that Pat and Mark Grace will be doing it next year! I’ll betcha if Ronnie could have picked his replacement it would have been Gracie!
I decided to break out “This Old Cub” tonight to celebrate this fine man’s life – I cried several times and, at age 53 it feels odd crying when a sports figure dies. But Ronnie was in my living room for many years – I celebrated with him, I commiserated with him and I shared with him as a fellow diabetic. Ron fought it his whole life – I look down at my feet and realize that soon I might have to have my toes amputated. Some of my organs don’t produce the chemicals they should and my body seems to reject many of the drugs I take after a while. So it’s an ongoing thing, I know how Ronnie felt in that respect.
His reaction to what was happening was to fight, he also made the best out of the cards he was dealt. He gives me inspiration, he was a good Cubs fan. I hope I will be one too.