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What is your favorite Ron Santo memory?

What is your favorite Ron Santo memory?

I just missed the Ron Santo era.  Bill Madlock was the first Cubs third baseman that I remember.  He was, in fact, my first favorite player.  My only memory of Santo as a player, ironically, was in that last season as a member of the Chicago White Sox and frankly, it wasn't a very productive one.  As a child, I only lived in the moment, and Santo wasn't a very good player that year.   It wasn't always so, my father would say.

If I have fond memories of Ron Santo, it was the stories my father would tell me.  He'd talk about his great defense and his knack for the clutch hit.  My father was a blue-collar worker who appreciated a guy like Santo, a guy who left it all on the field.  He was never a numbers guy, though Santo had those too.  That was my department, even back then.

I took a second look at my Ron Santo card, the one where he was in a White Sox uniform, seemingly forcing a smile.  He had Cubs blue running through his veins, perhaps he felt as odd wearing a White Sox uniform as Cubs fans did seeing him in it.  He wound up quitting after what he called a frustrating season, even though he had another year remaining on what was then a lucrative $100,000 contract.

It wasn't the front of the card I was interested in this time, though.  It was the back.  I studied those numbers until I knew every season's stats by heart.  Then I would talk to my father about it.  My father was, unlike me, a quiet man.  He worked 13 hours a day, coming home tired, smelling of sweat and metal.  It was the same smell as the one on the palm of my hand as I walked to the store  to get a pack of baseball cards, quarter gripped tightly so as not to lose it.  That smell still reminds me of my youth, about that moment when my father would come home and I could talk to him about baseball.

He would tell me the stories about what kind of ballplayer Ron Santo was, while I would try and balance that with the statistics I had just memorized.  In a way, it sort of set the tone for the way I appreciate baseball today.  I may have not ever seen Santo play live in a Cubs uniform, but in a way, his great career helped fuel my love for the game.

Congrats Ronny.

And thanks.

 

 

Filed under: Cubs Nostalgia

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  • In general, I remember how he played third base. His first step was as quick as anyone I've ever seen. I saw very few balls get between him and the line, even if he wasn't playing toward it. He also was a clutch hitter and always had a flair for the dramatic.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby. That's very similar to the things I heard. Really wish I would have seen him play in his prime. He retired early relatively young, 34 years old.

  • I was at some games at Wrigley Field that Santo played in (still have the scorecards) and I have 2 baseballs autographed by him, but what I remember most is how much he wanted the Cubs to win a World Series. A true Cub. A great player. He should have made the Hall of Fame long ago.

  • Thanks Ray! Totally agreed. A shame that he didn't make it and it was almost entirely because sportswriters were petty or uninformed or both.

  • Very nice piece John, I feel very similarly in the sense I never saw him play, the first guy I remember playing 3rd was Luis Salazar, but he was/is my dad's favorite player so I also grew up on very detailed stories of santo and the rest of the late 60's cubs. he also became the cubs announcer when I was 6 so I literally grew up with him on the radio and it always made me feel good to know he was on the roller coaster ride right there with me, feeling the pain and joy just as much as I was, will never forget listening to the brant brown call lol.

    Now off to watch the induction w/my 3 year old as i reel him into the cubs universe :)

    Congrats Ronnie!

  • In reply to Andrew13:

    Thanks for the kind words and the great post Andrew. The cycle goes on!

    That Brant Brown call is probably my most tangible memory.

  • With respect to the Santo family, this is off the subject but the Cubs just called up Beliveau. Another move has to be made before their game starts today.

  • I've heard. Carrie Muskat tweeted that a little earlier. Good to see him up, needs to throw strikes.

  • My aunt who is Italian (and a Cardinal fan) was in love with Ron Santo, She thought he was soooo cute.

    We went to ball games and people would yell "Pizza" at him from the stands.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    That's pretty funny about your aunt :)

  • Makes me feel quite old but my first and maybe best memory was listening on the radio in the car returning home and hearing Jack Quinlan talk about the great contributions that day from the two "kids", Billy and Ron.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    That's awesome!

  • My first, and fondest memory of Ron Santo was his first game in the majors. After years of futility, the Cubs suddenly had two young kids that brought bright futures to the game, Danny Murphy and Ron Santo, both 20 years old. The two of them led the Cubs to a double header win over the Pirates. Jack Quinlan was at the peak of his game as he called Santo's first (of many) double of his career.

    Danny Murphy never lived up to his promise, but Ron teamed up with veteran Ernie Banks and soon-to-come-up Billy Williams to bring many happy memories to a young kid like myself.

    The Chicago sports scene has been blessed with a series of superstars that were not only great athletes, but also great human beings. Walter Payton. Ernie Banks. Billy Williams. Michael Jordan. Ryne Sandberg.

    But none of them surpassed Ron Santo in either category.

    It is to the great shame of Baseball that they failed to grant this honor to this wonderful man while he was still alive.

    Thanks, Ron. Chicago returns the great love that you gave it.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Thanks DaveP. Great stuff!

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Dave
    Most cool, we must be close in age. I remember Danny too and think he tried to make a comeback as a pitcher with the White Sox!

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    My favorite memory of Ron Santo is how during every spring training here in AZ, before and after the game there was a line starting from down the main concourse all the way up the stairwell to the radio booth for autographs, maybe a couplehundred people long at times and he signed FOR EVERYBODY!!!!! My wife got me some baseball cards of Ronnie's for Christmas about 10 years ago now and one of these cards contained fabric from the original Cubs uniforms during his era..He and Pat Hughes were checking it out, saying how neat that was and I offered him the card, I told him I'll get more, please..He thanked me but refused and autographed it for me, like he did his rookie Topps card for me and numerous others..A truer gentleman you'll never find and he appreciated the fans unlike some other Cubs who sign 2-3 autographs and walk away

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Real nice story, Luigi. Very personal touch on that one.

  • Unfortunately, I have no memories of him as a player, I was born in 1968. All of my memories of Ron are as a broadcaster. I remember that he seemed to live and die with each pitch. If you turned on the radio in the middle of the game, all you had to do was hear Rons voice to know if they were winning or losing. The Brant Brown dropped fly ball is classic Ron. I was lucky enough to meet Ron at Wrigley Field back in 05 and I was able to get his autograph. He is my all time favorite Cubs player and I never saw him play a single game. I have his movie "This Old Cub", that I may have to break out and watch today.

  • In reply to Larry H:

    We're close to the same age, right on that threshold where we just missed him playing in a Cubs uniform. Totally remember that Brant Brown drop too.

  • In the late 1960s my parents would take me to St. Louis once a year to see the Cubs play the Cards. We'd stay where the team stayed, in the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel, so I could get autographs. In the restaurant there, The Tack Room, we saw Ron Santo eating a big steak dinner before leaving for a night game. He made outs his first couple of times up, but then around the 7th inning he came up and hit a home run. Mom and Dad jokingly suggested that it was because Ron had finally got his steak digested. That night was my favorite Ron Santo memory.

  • In reply to Jim Snowden:

    Thanks Jim. These stories are great. For those of us who missed a chance to see him personally, these really help get a feel for what kind of person he was.

  • Great article John! I feel obligated to reply in this thread because my title here is "I miss Ron Santo". Truly, I do miss him and Cubs broadcasts on the radio aren't the same. I never got to see him play either. I'm way too young to have seen him play, but everything I've read seems to perfectly embody what I want from a player wearing a Cubs uniform. He was a very solid defensive third baseman who got on-base, knocked in runners, hit some HRs, and was an exemplary teammate. He always played the game "the right way". Also, it should be mentioned how many health complications he had to deal with due to Type 1 Diabetes.

    I grew up listening to R. Santo on the radio, and loved how he reminded you of that lovable, older relative who couldn't quite remember stuff that well anymore and totally mispronounced names. The passion for the game, however was always there, and he really, really, REALLY wanted to see the Cubs win a WS in his lifetime.

    I don't understand how he didn't get elected into the HOF while he was alive (so could enjoy it with his family and dear friends like E. Banks). Yet, after he passes away they then decide to vote him in posthumously? I don't understand that at all, and I'm angry at all the voters who were too stubborn to acknowledge the sabermetric crowd who have been saying for years that Santo deserved to be in Cooperstown. It's a travesty, but at least future Cubs fans will be to read about him and hopefully learn what a great ballplayer he was.

    Also, if anyone wants to know more the late great R. Santo I highly recommend they watch "This Old Cub".

  • In reply to I miss Ron Santo:

    Thanks, I wrote an article using both old and new school arguments saying how he should qualify. It was one of my firsts and I re-published it the day before he got elected. Really hard to see how someone thought he wasn't good enough for the hall.

  • I like the fact that as the Cubs took the field today, they all did a heel click in tribute to #10.

    http://tinyurl.com/cnyr9oy

  • In reply to SFToby:

    That was very cool.

  • I saw him play many games as a young man. My folks took us from the Mchenry Co area on weekends and of course many Ladies days. I saved my allowence to eat many RON SANTOS PIZZAS. I also met him at a Father and Son Banquet in Algonquin IL. There have been many great memories told today. And Vicki's speech was perfect. I as many wish we could have seen his face as he accepted the HOF honor, and give a little smirk to those who kept him out all these years. A CLASS ACT HE WAS!

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Ron Santo Pizza! They should bring those back. And totally agree, wish he could have been there just so we could see him really enjoy it. At least the Cubs honored him. He knew he was loved here.

  • Wish I had been alive when he played baseball. I remember Ron Santo the broadcaster. A man who loved the cubs more than anyone. I loved his passion in the broadcast booth, u always knew when a great play happened, because Ronnie would let us all know by his saying "Yea" or "thata boy". Basically he's what we would be like in the broadcast booth of the cubs. Some people have said he was a bad broadcaster because he didn't cover the opposing team with as much ferver or pazaz i guess. Anyone who says that never really understood Ron at all. It wasn't his job to be nice to the other teams fans or to be statiscally accurate. He was our voice when we couldn't be heard, he was our voice as cubs fans. I can honestly say I may not be as big a cubs fan if it wasn't for Ron Santo with an assist to Pat Hughes. I'm 23 years old and I can say that Ron is my hero, and will always be. Miss u Ron. #10

  • I grew in the 50's & 60's already a die hard Cub fan watching them on WGN. I grinned ear to ear as Santo snatched shot after shot his direction. I had a chocolate lab named Santo. The Cubs disappointing finish in '69' was the reason he did not make the HOF sooner. Clicking his heels was considered bush league in those days and the Cubs did not win it. Ronnie lost his swagger after that season. I am thrilled that he has been inducted.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I'd heard that the heel clicking offended some. Probably would go by unnoticed in today's game.

    Great that you named your dog Santo!

  • In 2002 my wife, Karen, was the editor of Diabetic Cooking Magazine. She started a feature called “Tales from the Front” in which she did interviews with people from all walks of life who were coping with the disease. We were going on our annual spring training pilgrimage to Mesa, Arizona, and an article on Santo was an easy sell to the publisher who, like us, was a long time Cubs fan. So we contacted Ron through the Cubs, and he invited us to his home in Scottsdale.

    Ron had recently had his right leg amputated and was still learning to get around on his new prosthesis. So he was on crutches, but was upbeat and gracious throughout the interview. It was tough for Karen to keep him on the subject of diabetes, because he and I started talking Cubs. When he came up to the Cubs, I was still living in Chicago and he quickly became one of my favorite players. So we reminisced about those days, and the discussion rambled to the prospects of today’s Cubs. Karen tried valiantly to keep him on message, but we were having too much fun talking baseball. Consequently, an interview that should have been done in 30 minutes lasted nearly two hours. I shot the photos for the piece, including the one above where Ron is posing with the picture of the all-time Cubs team. Naturally, he is at third base.

    About four years later, I ran into Santo in the Wrigley Field press room before a game. By this time his left leg had been amputated and he was walking around on two prostheses. One was decorated with Cubs home pinstripes, the other with traveling grays. Both bore his number 10. I introduced myself, and reminded him about the interview for Diabetic Cooking. Now, I don’t know if he really remembered that one out of countless interviews, but if he didn’t he did a good job of acting like he had.

    Everybody has written about Santo’s graciousness and positive outlook on life. I was fortunate to experience it first hand. That he didn’t make it into baseball’s Hall of Fame during his lifetime is the Hall of Fame’s shame. Sometimes we equate clutch hitting or pitching with courage. Courage is living life to the fullest and maintaining an upbeat, positive outlook in the face of multiple problems and misfortunes. Ron Santo exemplified courage. He led a Hall of Fame life.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    Great experience clarkaddison! That's great that you got to meet him in that way -- and I have to say I can't blame you guys, I'd talk about baseball too.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    This story is incredible, and a perfect example of why Ronnie was loved so much by Cubs fans. Thanks for sharing!

    I'm maybe a unique individual on this blog, because I grew up in Kansas, and was born after his playing days. I became a Cubs fan because of the exposure on WGN TV, and didn't really get to hear Santo's broadcasts until MLB started offering radio streaming online. I did, however get to hear stories about Santo, like many of you have posted today. I think that he was a person that anybody would be drawn to for any number of reasons; for his outstanding play on the field, for his courage to do it with diabetes, for his unselfish personality (raising funds for JDRF, autographs, interviews, etc.), for his passion...the list goes on and on.

    Santo exemplified not only what being a ballplayer should be about, but moreso, what being a decent human being should be about . Giving your all, being positive despite adversity, being selfless, willingness to laugh at the lighter moments in life (and at yourself), are all qualities that should be admired by all.

  • Great post partner!

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Thanks!

  • Wow, guys. You're bringing me tears reading all this. I grew up in downstate Illinois, near Streator, and grew up watching Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd, listening to Jack Quinlan, Lloyd and Boudreau. I can't even remember who preceded Santo, but I sure do remember him from the start on. Every time Ron would get into the batter's box, my heart rate would climb. I can still see him in his stance. I didn't get to Wrigley often, but each time was a thrill, and he was a big part of that thrill. There was just something about him that set him a bit apart from all my other beloved heroes on those teams. I still, to this day, feel the sting of '69 (as my handle suggests), and my hatred of the Mets will never subside. Regardless, Ron Santo was the proverbial "ballplayer's ballplayer" and to me, "Mr. Cub II". It really saddens me that he left us so early in life.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thanks for the memory and that great post cubs1969!

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