With all off the talk surrounding the Hall of Fame on Thursday, it made me think of Ron Santo. Over the years I have become a HUGE fan of Ron Santo, not the player, but the man himself. I am too young to remember him playing 3rd base for the Cubs, but as a fan of baseball I knew of Ron Santo at a very early age. Over the years I have come to cherish listening to him on the radio with Pat Hughes, the same way I did watching Harry Carey and Steve Stone when I was growing up. In my opinion Ron Santo is ‘The Fans Voice of the Cubs’ and now when I think of the Chicago Cubs four things come to mind: Wrigley Field, Ryne Sandberg (my childhood hero), Harry Carey and Ron Santo.
I have gained a great respect for Santo over the years and it is great to hear him yell at the players with the same intensity that I yell at the screen or the radio when they make a bone head play. He shares the same passion for the Cubs that many of us do, he just has a vehicle to make his opinions known. In an age where broadcasters have to make the ‘right’ calls for their team, Santo has become a voice of realism that will always remain fresh and relevant. It was not until I watched ‘This Old Cub’, that I realized who Ron Santo actually is.
If you have not seen ‘This Old Cub’ and you are a fan of Ron Santo, I suggest ordering it as soon as possible. This is a tremendous film that brings Santo’s struggles with diabetes to life. This Old Cub is narrated by Joe Mantegna and features many stars that grew up Cub fans and idolizing Ron Santo. The film features most of the ’69 Cubs (Ferguson Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley), Bill Murray, Joel Murray, Brian Doyle Murray, Dennis Franz, Tom Dressen, Gary Sinise, Dennis Farina, William Peterson, Pat Hughes, Johnny Bench, Bob Uecker, Marty Brennaman, Chris Berman, Peter Gammons, Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, John McDonough, Tommy Lasorda, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Steve Stone and Chip Caray. All share their Cubs stories, memories of Ron Santo and why Santo should be in the Hall of Fame. There is tremendous film footage, especially of the ’69 Cubs, still pictures and video of Santo going through his last leg amputation before the 2003 season.
According to the film Santo was the greatest 3rd baseman in Cubs History and has been with the Cubs organization for 43 years (the movie was filmed 3 years ago, Santo is entering his 46 year with the Cubs). Santo said, he “would not give up those 14 years with the Cubs to be in a World Series with anyone else. If I could not be in a World Series with the Cubs I would not want to be in the World Series.” He later explains that is why he became one of the Cubs announcers, he wants to be in the booth when the Cubs go to and win the World Series.
Ron Santo played all three sports in high school, but he loved baseball the most. All 16 Major League teams drafted him and the Cubs made him the lowest offer. Santo said there was something about Chicago. He used to watch Ernie Banks on the game of the week and wanted to play with Banks in Chicago with the Cubs.
Ron Santo has the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame and the writers did not vote him in and now it is up to the Veteran’s Committee (their next ballot is in 2007). During Ryne Sandberg’s Hall of Fame induction speech last summer, Ryno said ‘Now Santo has another vote’. Santo was voted the 1961 National League Sophomore Player of the Year, in 1963 he had the most assists by a 3rd baseman and in 1965 he became the youngest captain of the Cubs. Santo played for the Cubs from 1960 to 1973. He was a 9 time All-Star and won 5 gold gloves. Between 1961 and 1970, Santo averaged 27 home runs and 101 RBI’s. When he retired in 1974, Santo finished with 342 home runs (4th all time for 3rd basemen) and 1331 RBI’s (5th all time for 3rd basemen). Santo played 2102 games at third base, most ever in the history of the Chicago Cubs and since Santo retired 30 years ago, the Cubs have had 99 different third basemen (note the film was released 2 years ago). According to Peter Gammons, “Santo is the best ball player not in the Hall of Fame”.
In the film Dennis Franz gave Santo a great compliment. Franz said, “He looked like us, he represented the Chicago mentality and the Chicago people. Ron Santo was what we wanted a Chicago Cub player to be, this was a blue collar baseball player”.
In 1958, Santo was diagnosed type one Juvenile diabetic insulin dependant at 18 years old and was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo wanted to keep his diabetes quiet and wanted to see if he could play with it. Since 1976, Santo does an annual walk-a-thon to help find a cure for JDRF and has raised over $50 million dollars to date.
The tributes to Santo are numerous. Pat Hughes said, “Ron Santo is not about sadness, he is about fun. He is about enjoying life as much as you can.” Chip Carey said he is to the Cubs’ fans today, what Harry used to be.
The film show highlights from the 2003 Season, including Spring Training, Opening Day with the Mets (Santo still cannot stand the Mets and I do not blame him), Santo’s jersey retirement ceremony, and the 2003-playoff defeat.
The DVD version has a lot of extras that were not shown on WGN. There are extra interviews that include Bud Selig, WGN TV interviews of Ron Santo from 1967-1971 and even Ron and Joe Pepitone singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’.
Over 20 million Americans live with diabetes and proceeds from ‘This Old Cub’ benefit JDRF. Jeff Santo directed ‘This Old Cub’.
Ron Santo is a true Cubs’ fan and takes every loss to heart. The film ends with Ron Santo saying, “Believe me, we’ll be back next year”. Santo is the eternal optimist and I hope he gets to see his beloved Cubs win the World Series.
I’m clicking my heals for you Ron!!