Summer Silence – A Tribute to Ron Santo

The sound of summer will never be the same again.

For the past thirty years, my television or radio, has broadcast the fate of my beloved Cubs.  This year, I just don’t have the heart to listen.  It could be because they are having a lackluster year.  But I don’t think so.  I’ve been following them through bad years my whole life.

At first, I listened to Jack Brickhouse with his “Hey-Hey!”  Then it was “Holy Cow!” with Harry and Steve Stone.  But the departures of Jack and Harry didn’t leave the hole in my heart that Ron Santo did.

Ron was a Cub through and through.  Not only did he play for the famous 1969 Cubs, but he experienced the famous “black cat”.  That particular year was one of the most monumental Cub disappointments ever.  And that’s what made Ron special.  His determination, love and loyalty amidst disappointment.

There were times when his personal life could have felt disappointing.  As a young player, Ron was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, before anyone even knew what juvenile diabetes was.  He kept his condition a secret, afraid MLB wouldn’t let him play.  Later, the disease would claim both of his legs.  He’d have heart surgery and have to learn how to walk with prosthetic legs.  He did.  He never gave up.  Not on life, not on the Cubs, and he gave you the feeling that if you knew him personally, he’d never give up on you either.  I never heard him complain about his body once, except maybe about his lack of hair.  He was famous for his toupees, in fact once during a game, one of his hairpieces caught on fire.

He endured the monumental disappointment of never having reached the Hall of Fame,  even allowing his son, an independent filmmaker, to document the weeks, days, hours and yes, even the moment he received the crushing phone call.

He endured one disappointing season after another, along with all of the die-hard Cubs fans.  With every bad play, it was “Oh Geez!”, or even worse, “Oh no!”  I could tell within thirty seconds whether the game was going well or not, just by the sound of Ron’s voice.   He was the genuine article Cub’s fan.

So maybe you can understand, why I shed a tear, even now, because my summer will never sound the same.  No more weeding gardens next to the radio.  No more running errands with Pat and Ron.  No more exclamations of occasional delight or, more commonly, distress.  The birds are still singing.  The lawn mower still humming. But the sound I long for is forever gone…

PS.  A few days after I wrote this, I do have to admit to watching the Cubs vs. Sox games…I guess just like Ron, I’m incurable…

The idea for this post came one day when Frank, the brilliant author of A Frank Angle, and I began talking baseball (via comments on our blogs of course).  After reading his amazing post On All Time Harrys, the topic of Ron Santo came up.  We decided to collaborate on a pair of posts.  I would do a post about my thoughts on Ron Santo, he would do a post On All Time Rons.  It was a lot of fun! 

Frank’s blog is chock full of everything from science to religion; from politics to baseball.  He has such a wide range of interests and is so intelligent, there’s truly something for everyone.   He is on my All Time Franks list!  😀

For more information on the life and career of Ron Santo purchase the newly released book:  Ron Santo:  A Perfect Ten by Pat Hughes and Rich Wolfe

26 thoughts on “Summer Silence – A Tribute to Ron Santo

  1. Pingback: All-Time Rons « A Frank Angle

  2. Journey,
    A wonderful tribute to a Cub legend. It is interesting how certain people become symbols for the club and the city – and it seems the broadcast booth is the space many occupy – and every MLB city has someone! Here in Cincinnati, people often think it’s Pete Rose. Nope – it’s Joe Nuxhall. He is from the area. The youngest ever to appear in a MLB game (age 15). Had a long career as a player, mainly with the Reds – followed by a long career in the radio booth – and known for having a genuine heart of gold. People loved him … and the city deeply mourned his death a few years ago. So I can relate.

    Meanwhile, glad you found the All-Time Harrys, and here are the All-Time Rons, which includes a video at the end for you.

    The dual post was fun … and thanks for the plug.

  3. First off, my warmest greetings as a fellow, albeit in my case once and future, Chicagoan.
    I was never really into sports. If you knew my rotund, uncoordinated self, it wouldn’t surprise you. Yet, the Cubs snuck in through the back door. Or in my case, the Jeffries Tube. You see, WGN introduced me to two lifelong loves, one rather blatant, the other more insidious. On Channel 9, I learned to love “Star Trek”, which launched me into a lifelong love of all things sci-fi. Yet many shows were delayed by baseball games, and it was sitting there, waiting for my show to start, that the Cubs found their way in. Later, some of my college chums lived less than 4 blocks from the hallowed halls of Wrigley, renewing my unknown love. And once I was exiled here in Ohio, when we finally got our own place in 2004, WGN was available, and once more I had access to the Cubs – and intentionally watched. I heard Harry, when I first started catching the Cubs, and I heard Ron during the early days of my exile. Both their losses have gravely saddened me, but Ron’s a bit more. As you said, he was so dedicated and enthusiastic, and he gave me a little piece of my hometown that was so unforgivingly ripped from me.
    But never fear. While the Hall of Fame may have turned it’s back on Ron, he is on the ultimate All-Stars team now. And WHEN the Cubs win the World Series, he and Harry will yell their heads off.
    And all Chicago will hear them clearly.
    A wonderful post, well written and truly from the heart. Thank you very much! And thanks to Frank for arranging the co-operative posts – well done!

    • John! My fellow Chicagoan. Your comment is so beautifully written, it makes me want to erase my post and replace it with a giant red arrow pointing the your comment. WGN had the same affect on so many, making the Cubs, America’s team. I came home from school in the spring to the sounds of WGN. When I should have been boy crazy, I was Cub crazy. Sometime I’ll have to tell the time when I tried to shove a present into Ryne Sandburg’s car window…

    • No, no, I don’t want to steal your thunder! 🙂 I just wanted to give you some insight, as to how a sports-disliking sci-fi nerd could fall in love with the Cubs. I’ve even written in support of turning Wrigley into a Historic Landmark, even though I’ve only been there a few times. WGN was always a big part of my youth, be it Bozo’s Circus, Garfield Goose, or my fave, Ray Rayner. As I got older, it was Star Trek and Family Classics. I was even catching WKRP, ironically now that I’m living in Ohio with Frank over in Cincy, until they re-arranged their “retro Saturday nights”. But the Cubs have always been there, one way or another, and the “pan” shots showing the neighborhood I kicked around with my college friends just get to me. And Ron was one of the “big names” that always made me look up when mentioned. Even though not a regular or rabid Cubs fan, Ron’s loss really hurt.
      By the way, if you’ve never caught the WGN retrospective called “Bozo, Gar, and Ray”, you need to – they play it around Christmas (for the past 2 or 3 years), or I can get you a DVD copy. So many memories, especially when they pull out the old Christmas classics, the original “Frosty The Snowman” (no Rankin-Bass production here, thank you), and “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe”. If you don’t sit through THAT one, grinning from ear to ear while bawling like a 2-year-old, you’re made of sturdier stock than I! 😀

      • I loved the Bozo show….and the Grand! Prize! Game!! If memory serves right, it was on during my lunch hour…Thanks again for taking time to comment so eloquently. You and Frank are great blogging friends!

  4. Having just returned from Cincinnati for 10 days, I found the red and white Reds fans on the streets, in the elevators, and in the restaurants as early as 3:30 in the afternoon. It was great timing that I could read this piece reflecting the midwesterner’s pride for their baseball teams. I really enjoyed this from top to bottom, from Chicago to Cincinnati. Wonderful tribute.

      • My little brother and his wife currently live in Chicago. They think it’s a great city too.

      • Aside from the political corruption, Chicago is the friendliest, most beautiful architectural city in the world. (in my humble opinion). We have great art, sports, food, history and shopping. What else could you want?…other than honest politicians, that is.

      • Aw, come on! Watching the political shenanigans IS a form of public entertainment. Heck, back in the 80s (or was it the 90s?), it was one of THE biggest spectator sports! The poor Cubbies could only hope for such ratings!
        By the way, I saw something on line, refuting a commentator’s comment that Anthony Weiner was dominating the news. Turns out he polled fourth place for attention paid to political scandal. Number one? BLAGO! See? Chicago ROCKS!! 😀

  5. Forgot to tell you.
    I remember when upgraded cable came to town. It was our sometime during our first year in our first house .. 1978/79. We got WGN and I would tune into the Cubs with Jack Brickhouse late in the afternoon. Wow … the Cubs winning was big news back then – but I enjoyed the broadcast. Then came Harry, who was one of my favs as a kid listening to Cardinal games on a transistor radio. And he made watching games even more fun. A classic character of the game … but he also loved the game. I’ve got more to tell with Harry, but I should just write a post on it!

  6. “Go ahead and write it, Frank,
    “About Jack, and Harry, and Ron.
    “We all will read it
    “And feel less sad
    “That our beloved Cubbie is gone.”
    – or –
    “We’ll continue to remember him,
    “And though Ron has gone away,
    “He’ll be in the booth with Jack and Harry,
    “Where the REAL All-Stars play.”
    Thanks again, both of you! 😀

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