Rest in Peace, Ronnie
Ron Santo made his MLB debut in 1960 with the Chicago Cubs and played 13 great seasons as a Cub (and then one final season as a White Sox. White Sock. How do you singularize the “Sox”?) He played hard and with passion every inning of every game.
On September 28, 2003, his number was retired and it now flies in left field (along with Ernie Banks’s #14), but he was never inducted into the HOF (which is an injustice. NO ONE would have loved being in the HOF more than Ron Santo.)
“I know getting inducted into the Hall of Fame had to be something, but that flag is going to be hanging there after everybody is gone.”
And since 1990, Ronnie has been in the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field, alongside Pat Hughes, as the WGN Radio commentators. That’s how I remember him (since, unfortunately, I wasn’t alive to see him play…). I couldn’t explain it better than desipio.com’s blog post “So long, Big Boy“. I hope they don’t mind me borrowing their perfectly written description:
“I, like most of you, remember Ron exclusively as a broadcaster. And let’s not fool ourselves, he wasn’t very good at it. He started out as a horrible analyst, got a little better, and went right back to being horrible at it. He mangled names, he answered faxes at the most ill-opportune times, he forgot the score, the forgot who was pitching, he’d lose track and spend five minutes asking Pat Hughes for help catching his scorebook up. He spent more time trying to guess the attendance at the ballpark than he did studying up on the opposing pitcher. And we loved him for all of it anyway. Why? Because he was genuine, and we liked him. At times, mostly when you were in the car and couldn’t see what was going on and Ron was derailing Pat from describing what really happened, you’d get irritated with him, but it never lasted very long. He wanted the same thing we did, for the Cubs to win, and like us he had no filter on showing his disgust or his excitement. For 20 years, nearly every big moment in any Cubs game has a soundtrack of Ron either happily yelling, “All right!” or him dejectedly moaning.”
Ronnie was (is) a huge part of the reason I love the Cubs so much. I grew up with the Chicago Cubs and spent a lot of time listening to the games on the radio. It’s hard NOT to love the Cubs when you are listening to Ronnie. He didn’t broadcast the actual happenings of the GAME so much (he left that to his perfect counterpart, Pat), but he broadcast the emotions. When you were screaming at the radio because of a bad play, you could bet Ronnie was yelling right along with you. And when you were cheering, his cheers would drown yours out. He wasn’t a broadcaster, he was a Cubs fan who got to be on the radio. He was the ultimate Cubs fan.
I’ve been listening to WGN Radio all morning (because they’re awesome and have a great iPhone app that I can listen to the broadcast on when I’m out of the city!) and they’re spending the entire day remembering Ronnie. Pat, of course, is on the show and is sharing stories. You can’t help but laugh as you hear these memories. Ronnie had a spirit that was addictive and couldn’t be broken (and he endured A LOT in his lifetime). He will be missed.
I’m going to miss his enthusiasm, passion, random (unbaseball related) stories he’d tell, and made-up words he’d throw in. The Cubs radio broadcast will never be the same. Rest in Peace, Ronnie. We know you’re watching over the Cubbies. And thank you for teaching me what it means to truly love a team.