Ron Santo’s longtime WGN Radio broadcast partner Pat Hughes teamed up with author Rich Wolfe to put together a great book on legendary third baseman Ron Santo, who played for the Cubs from 1960 to 1973 before spending his final season with the White Sox.
The title of the novel is Ron Santo A Perfect Ten, referring to the number that Ronnie sported for most of his career, which is now retired by the organization. After speeding through the book in just three days, I would give it a perfect ten as well.
The forward, titled Namesakes are People Two, is by Ron Santo, Jr. He describes what is was like to grow up around the ballpark with Ron Santo as a father. Instead of simply writing about Ron themselves, Hughes and Wolfe talked to the people that knew him best and divided the book into sections with stories from different people. The first chapter contains Pat’s memories about working with the Cubs legend for 15 years on WGN Radio. He tells his favorite stories, including the burning hairpiece at Shea Stadium, the frozen yogurt machine in Arizona, the Brant Brown dropped fly ball and more. In addition to all of the hilarious Pat & Ron stories that most of us have heard many times, Pat includes several new ones that will make you laugh. The end of the first chapter includes a brief section by the only current Cub to contribute to the book, Kerry Wood. He was always one of Santo’s favorite Cubs and the story about Jim Hendry and Wood talking about a deal at the funeral gives him even more of a connection to #10. Wood writes about the phone call he made to Ron, who was in the hospital at the time, just after the Cubs won the NLDS in 2003.
The second chapter is stories from Ron’s family members. His wife Vicki has a section titled “Living with a Legend,” while his son Jeff and daughter Kelly also share their stories. Kelly wrote about how important Ronnie’s relationship with his grandsons (her two boys) was. Jeff tells about the time he spent with his father gathering footage for his documentary “This Old Cub.”
The next chapter “Let’s Skedaddle to Seattle” focuses on Santo’s childhood. His sister Adielene, high school sweetheart and ex-wife Judy and friends Frank Savelli and Bill Chatalas all contributed their memories. Adielene’s section included some great stories of growing up in the same house as Ron Santo. Savelli was one of Ronnie’s best friends, dating back to second grade.
Chapter four features Santo’s baseball friends. Commissioner Bud Selig, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, former Cubs front office man John McDonough, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and Cubs president Crane Kenney were all included in this chapter. Colletti grew up as a huge fan of Ron. McDonough came up with the idea to retire #10 in 2003.
Media members such as radio personality Mike Murphy, Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, Cubs beat writer Bruce Miles and TV/Radio host David Kaplan collaborated on a chapter. Kaplan had some stories of pranks that he and John McDonough played on Ronnie in the 1990s when Kap served as the pregame show host on WGN Radio. Murphy remembered the relationship that he and the bleacher bums had with Santo and the rest of the 1969 team. Miles talked about how special Ron’s broadcast style was.
Speaking of broadcasting, one of the best chapters in the book included most of Ronnie’s ex-booth mates. His first partner (1990-1995 on WGN Radio) Thom Brennaman told his favorite Santo story about how the first two words heard on the air at the start of their first season with the Cubs were profanity. Bob Brenly, who is currently the Cubs TV color man, shared the booth with Thom and Ron on radio for two seasons. Brenly and Santo were originally pitted against one another for the gig but the station decided to hire them both. TV play-by-play man Len Kasper and producer Marc Brady also contributed to the chapter. Ronnie’s trusty producer for ten seasons on 720-AM, Matt Boltz, wrote one of the best sections of the book. Boltzy talked about how Ronnie was a father figure for him. Andy Masur, Cory Provus and Judd Sirott, all of whom joined Pat, Matt and Ron in the booth at various times, all wrote sections.
The book also includes several great photos of the Cubs legend. The final chapter, titled “Santopalooza,” included a unique section by Tom Lill, who played on the same men’s softball team as Ronnie for two years. There is also a section in the final chapter filled with different stories about Ron’s hairpieces.
There were over 20 people who were interviewed for the novel whose stories did not make it, including teammates such as Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert, Fergie Jenkins and Don Kessinger. Their stories will be included in Rich Wolfe’s next book, For Cub Fans Only, Volume III.
Ron Santo A Perfect Ten is available on ronsantobook.com, at Chicagoland Jewel stores, Cubs.com and Binny’s Beverage Depot. For any fan of Ron Santo, this book is a must read. It is a great way to remember Ronnie with a smile on your face.