Thursday, December 9, 2010

Entry 114: R.I.P. Ron Santo

Forgive me my departure from the usual irreverent hyperbole of this blog, but I wanted to honor one of my great heroes and friends who died last week, Ron Santo.  [If you're missing your dose of craziness, I recommend a quick peek at my blog friend Andrew's post where he found a pornographic instruction note of his roommate/amateur-gay-porn-director in the basement. LINK]

Ron was a Cubs baseball player for years in the 60's and 70's, and spent the last 21 seasons as an announcer for the Cubs with the incomparably awesome Pat Hughes. Ron was definitely a fan first and announcer second, and one of the rare broadcasters of our day who was willing to put his emotions out there in place of the detached observance that is common amongst many modern broadcasters.

I was sad- almost surprisingly so- when I heard Ron had died.  As some of you know, I am an avid Cubs fan who very much prefers to listen to Pat and Ron call a game than to watch it on TV.  Over the last 20 years, and especially the last decade, it has been a rare Cub game that I didn't hear on the radio.  When you spend that many hours sharing in the passion of your favorite sports team with a guy who loves the team as much as you do, a special bond forms.  I know I'm not alone, either, as the reaction to his death has been met with extreme sadness, remembrance, and a celebration of Ron's life by Cub fans throughout the nation. 

When I was researching reasons why Santo was never inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (which many people agree should have happened a long time ago) I came across an article that, while respectful, disparaged Santo's broadcasting work . There were the usual vitriolic comments either supporting or attacking the article, but after digesting the criticism the author presented I decided to leave a comment of my own.  You can find the article here, but I wanted to post my comment as it contained much of what I feel about Mr. Ron Santo.

*NOTE the original article was written July 1, 2009.  Here is the salient paragraph of the article, and the essence of what motivated my comment:

Whereas he used to be a foolish, sentimental clown who couldn’t get out of his own way to Cooperstown, he now has become an annoying, whiny pain in the ass that perpetuates the worst stereotype of Cub fans as fatalistic boobs who are at the mercy of the fates. Every time an opposing team hits a pop fly that falls for a hit, Santo opines “Those things always happen to us.” (of course, you’ll never see him express gratitutde every time it happens for the Cubs). When a reliever comes in and puts a few baserunners on, Santo bleatingly wonders, “What is going ON?” And that’s not even counting the myriad times he just yells “Gah!” “Jeez!” “Ahh!” completely trampling over the dutiful description of the action by his partner—the outstanding Pat Hughes who, unfortunately, has been relegated to the role of babysitter for a grown man.

Here is my comment:

    Well, for those of you who didn’t care for Ron, he’s passed now. And for those of us who loved him- for whatever reasons- we get to mourn his passing and remember all the great memories we had with him.

    I suppose I can see how some people didn’t like Ron’s style of broadcasting. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, though! When WGN played clips during a day-long tribute, I recognized every single one of them and could transport myself back to when I first heard it and remember what I was doing.

    The “hairpiece” conversation? Loved it! Or when he was yelling at fans to “sit down, please!” He was an emotional guy, but that’s why I loved him. I am an emotional Cub fan, and I never felt like I missed anything by having Ron’s emotional outbursts pouring out my speakers.

    Baseball is more than just a sport; more than just a calculated game involving athletes and rules and skills. Sports are a mode of human expression, and Ron was a model of living a life dedicated to helping others and following your passion.

    Obstacles? You bet- and more than most, too. Charity? Did you know he has helped raise over 40 million dollars for diabetes research? He was close to his family, close to his friends, and I haven’t even gotten into his stellar career as a player.

    I respect a person’s right to have an opinion on things, and even to use their own opinions and attitudes to shape an article. I’m likely to do the same myself! I won’t critique or harass you for your article- which I disagree with- but I would like to mention just one thing that I think bears correcting.

    Pat Hughes, as you said, is an absolutely marvelous broadcaster. In fact, he’s my favorite (I made a Cubs jersey with “Hughes” on the back and ’720′ for the number, since he never gets enough credit for his work!).
But to call Pat a “babysitter” for Ron is to completely misunderstand the nature of the Pat/Ron relationship. Pat was never disparaging, never disrespectful, and never once in all their years together did he show anything that could be considered scornful or pitying.

    Yes, this is partly because Pat is a professional. But mostly- and this is the point I want to make- Pat had a profound respect and admiration for Ron. He truly valued Ron’s contributions to the booth, and his affection and appreciation for Ron’s work were evident in every broadcast they did together.

    The idea that Pat deserved better or that Ron was somehow a burden to him is profoundly mistaken. The camaraderie, the fun, and the respect that these men had for each other in the booth was an inspiration to all of us. Playing on each others strengths and personality, they created one of the most entertaining and enjoyable broadcast experiences in history.

    Ron leaves a void larger than any person could hope to fill. Cub fans everywhere will have to contend with a future devoid of any of the gaffes and outbursts that you mentioned in this article.

    While there are those out there- like yourself- who I’m sure respect Ron and mourn his passing but aren’t sorry to see him out of the booth, I know that there is no price I wouldn’t pay next season and all the seasons after to hear just one more “Aww geez!” or “What’s going ON!?” from one of my personal heroes, Ron Santo.

Caleb "Aw, Geez, ya gotta score more runs if you want to win!" Shreves


  1. Beautiful. Very touching post, Shreves.

  2. I don't care for Baseball or the Cubs. I had never heard of them until I went to Illinois really. But this is a great post. People like him are the kind of people I love. They aren't afraid to live and express themselves, they act truthfully and honnest people are hard to find these days.

    My younger sister has been diagnosed with diabetes when she was 3. She's now 7 and I've watched my family struggle ever since. I don't know Ron Santo but anyone my friends like or helps a cause I care about gets points in my book.

  3. Dude, I am way too drunk on a Thursday night to be finding out you linked to my blog. Haha!

  4. What an awesome tribute to an American hero! I loved your response to the snot nose columnist. Spot on! When I was a kid, I listned to Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd on 720. Back then Ron was my hero as a player. He would click his heels together when something cool happened. He was always a lovable nut case, and, as they say, "if lovin him is wrong, I don't wanna be right"

  5. Haha. This is quite the interesting blog =) Loving the reviews.


  6. Thanks!

    Dad- found your comment on the original article. Well played.

    Dad said:

    My son’s comment sums it up. He is articulate and eloquent. I’m not. You’re a douchebag.