A League of Her Own

RIP Ronnie: Cubs' Legend Ron Santo Dies at 70

We all knew this day was coming, even as we hoped it wouldn't:

 

Legendary Chicago Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo died Thursday night in Arizona. He was 70.

Friends of Santo's family said the North Side icon lapsed into a coma on Wednesday before dying Thursday. Santo died of complications from bladder cancer, WGN-AM 720 reported.

"He absolutely loved the Cubs," said Santo's broadcast partner, Pat Hughes. "The Cubs have lost their biggest fan."

Hughes noted that with all the medical problems Santo had--including diabetes with resulting leg amputations, his heart and bladder cancer--"he never complained. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to talk baseball."

We'll have today's headlines up later, but for now, let's all share our favorite Ron Santo moments: in the booth, on the field, off the field.

As for me, i'm not old enough to have seen Ronnie play live baseball, so my two favorite moments came while he was in the booth. The first was the infamous "toupee burning" incident at Shea stadium. For those that missed it, Ronnie's hairpiece caught fire under an electric heater mounted above the booth in Shea stadium. What made this moment so funny, aside from the fact that nothing has ever, EVER gone right for Ronnie at Shea Stadium, was his comment about the hairpiece afterwards: "Damn, that was my number two. Well, maybe number three now, with the singe marks."

I was laughing so hard I had to pull my car over on the side of the Ike.

My second favorite moment was when the Cubs in expicably had former Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek in the both to sing the 7th inning stretch. Normally, this would have been one of those moments where everyone cringes through an awkward interview, praying for it to be over so we can get back to baseball.

Except.

As soon as Pat began explaining to Ron who James Van Der Beek was, it became clear that Ronnie, with little to do in the off-season down in Arizona, has seen EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of Dawson's Creek. What's more, he was INTO it. What should have been a stupid throw-away interview turned into high comedy as Ronnie took over, grilling Van Der Beek about plot twists and the fate of his former co-stars. Radio gold.

We'll have more to say about Ronnie today at 1:00 pm CT on Wrigley Talk Friday.

As I said, headlines will be up later.

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62 Comments

kiwibob said:

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Few bits of news really stun me these days but I looked up the Trib news thinking "Oh God... not Jeff Baker and my blood ran cold when I saw the headline.
Now I've had a little cry and feel really awfully sad. I'm going to miss Ron. He rocked!
Bless you Julie for managing to get him to read my name out this year! And bless him for doing so...
For six or seven seasons, until mlbtv came along, I'd get up at 6am and tuck myself on the sofa and listen to Pat and Ron call pretty much every game of the season. Even once I could actually watch the game I would sometimes listen to it instead and re-create that feeling.... now a little piece of my life is gone.
I know some people thought he was an awful colour man but I personally thought he and Pat made one of the most listenable duos I've ever heard do sport...
Bye Ronnie... you cheered me up so many times... and one day, probably when I'm dead too... they'll finally win the damn thing and dedicate it to you.

Read more: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/league-of-her-own/2010/12/surprise-illinois-doesnt-want-to-give-the-ricketts-200-million.html#ixzz173ksy7Sx

JulieDiCaro said:

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Remember that day I asked Pat and Ron to send you "get well" wishes, and Ron said "Feel Better, Big Boy!" Heeeee! So werid. So funny.

kiwibob said:

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That was awesome... I need to find that game and get someone to crop out the audio for me... i could turn it into my alarm clock noise or something!

JulieDiCaro said:

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I just want to add that, if Ronnie makes it into the HOF posthumously, I hope his family boycotts the ceremony.

ELRaythar said:

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thisyearcub said:

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This x 1 million

gravedigger said:

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This, and that someone commits an act of physical violence towards Joe Morgan.

Duey23 said:

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Hear hear!!!

kiwibob said:

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Ignore that link thing... it posted up when I cut and pasted my post from the previous thread.
My favourite Ron moment was when he read out my name on air this year (Thanks CJ!!)... I sadly missed the wig inferno but I just loved the way the Pat would gently taunt him for most of the game in the way that only a person who loves the tauntee ever could. Ron's inability to know what was going on sometimes just made me love him even more.

--MGb said:

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Apr 26th, 2009 - Ron Santo quote of the day - "He definitely I think may be swinging. Or maybe not."

Oh Ronny, you made me cry so often...mostly from your br4oadcasting, but occasionally with laughter...

ELRaythar said:

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I was pretty sleepy this morning until I read the tweet, which woke me right up :(

As CJ mentioned, we all knew this day was coming, but did our best to keep from believing it. It's a shame he isn't in the HOF, and to be inducted posthumously would just be an insult.

Stylin19 said:

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Your story about Ronnie and James VanderBeek made me laugh this morning. It's a sad day for Cub's fans, and I can honestly say that he will be missed. Sad he didn't get into the Hall or see his cubbies win a world series. My favorite memory is meeting Ron in Arizona during pre-season and talking baseball with him before the game. R.I.P. #10

CubLikeUs said:

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Like Julie, I'm too young to have seen Ron play, but his definitive moment in the booth for me was during a game in L.A. in 2008. The Cubs had peeled out to a healthy lead early, but the Dodgers kept nibbling away at it. The ninth inning lasted an eternity, as the Dodgers kept getting guys on base and driving them in. I'm pretty sure Marmol was on the mound, and by this point Ronnie was a nervous wreck, all sputtering and grumbling. Marmol gave up a soft base hit that cut the lead to one and all Ron could say was "WHY? WHY? WHY?" as loud as he could. The Cubs wound up holding on to win, and I was more relieved for Ron than I was for the team. My wife and I still shout "WHY? WHY? WHY?" when things go badly for the Cubs.

The other moment was the next season at Petco Park. Pat is calling the game as smoothly as ever and then suddenly he says, "I don't know if the fans know, but here at Petco there is a portion of the stands where, if people stand up, I cannot see the action at home plate. They are standing right now, so take it away, Ron." At this point, I'm expecting Ron to start calling the game because he has the better vantage point, but instead the next thing you hear is Ron, far away from his microphone, shouting, "WOULD YOU SIT DOWN, PLEASE!"

Karen said:

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The Petco Park story had me laughing out loud...thanks for the smile on this crappy-ass morning

JulieDiCaro said:

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Ahahahahaha! I remember that--so funny.

JulieDiCaro said:

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priceless.

CubLikeUs said:

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Oh man, thank you for finding that!

Eric From The Dugs said:

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This one's new to me. So awesome! Thanks for finding it!

Doc said:

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This off season has started to become epically depressing.

thisyearcub said:

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Even though it was a crushing blow at the time (but funny to talk about since the Cubs still went to the playoffs), I have to take the common answer of Brant Brown. Ron lived and died with the Cubs (as most of us do), and that shriek of "Ohhhh Nooooo!" when Brown dropped the flyball is something we can all identify with: Plays like that literally give you a pain in the stomach.

Of course, his calls of "Yessssss! Yeahhhhhh!" when the Cubs hit a walkoff, or clinched a playoff spot, reminded us the good times outweigh the bad. He was a perfect complement to Pat Hughes.

Santo was also a grade A badass that Chuck Norris should bow to. I mean, the guy was hitting .300 with 30 HRs and playing stellar at the hot corner while suffering from diabetes, which he didn't want to tell anyone because he was afraid he'd be forced to retire and he loved the game THAT much. And back then, the treatment was nowhere near as good as it is now, so I can't even imagine what he had to play through, and then to do it on an All-Star level.

We'll miss you, Ronnie. Heel-click in heaven for us.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I remember Ronnie saying he would eat Snickers bars to regulate his blood sugar.

Over the last few years, I never ceased to be amazed by how tall and strong Ronnie looked. Then, the last time I saw him, he looked completely different. Older, more frail. You could kind of tell he was going downhill.

AndCounting said:

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The Brant Brown call was the definitive expression of Cubs fan angst. I turned the broadcast off immediately after the game was over on the commute home from work, so Ron's "Noooooooo!!!" pretty much just resonated in the car for a good ten minutes of silence.

Seriously, this was a car pool with 5 grown men in the car, and nobody said a word. Ron's "No!" said it all. His immediate expression of grief saved me from having to vent my own anger, and it probably saved the lives of everyone in my car and on the Indiana Toll Road at the time.

Doc said:

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Santo was a Cubs broadcaster longer than Harry Caray was.

Doc said:

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I know this won't happen...but I'd like to see Pat Hughes go solo...at least for a year.

jarowcliffe said:

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Big shoes to fill...

Eric From The Dugs said:

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Pat: (Noticing Ron is distracted) Um.... Ron, Ron, what's wrong?

Ron: My scorecard just flew out the window.

Pat: If anyone's brought their radios to the game today and finds Ronnie's scorecard, could you please return it? He'll slap a twenty on you.

Ron: No, Ron will not!

Eric From The Dugs said:

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The debate over the types of cake. If you have the best of Pat & Ron CD, you know what I'm talking about.

Ron is trying to get Pat to answer what the superior type of cake is: vanilla with chocolate frosting vs. chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. Pat won't play along and keeps choosing carrot cake.

The level to which Ron gets infuriated over Pat's "inability to commit to anything" is just classic.

plamorte said:

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you can buy the CD here: http://bit.ly/dWsXcy

Crazy that in 2010 you have to mail in the order form for it, boo.

Eric From The Dugs said:

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbLU_nEmS4w

This has the clip I'm talking about, and a few others.

gravedigger said:

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I don't unders... what is "mail" and "order form"?

John R. Schmidt said:

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Bill James--who knows something about baseball history--rated Ron Santo the #6 third baseman of all-time. That put Santo ahead of Traynor and Kell and Brooks and Jimmy Collins, and a few more guys who are already in the Hall of Fame. Now that's Santo's dead, will he finally be honored in Cooperstown?
--JRS

JulieDiCaro said:

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If he is, I hope his family declines to appear. Seriously, what a slap in the face.

Dina said:

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I will certainly miss the ongoing dialog about Pat's ugly sweater.

JulieDiCaro said:

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or what color it was. I remember Ron waxing philosphic for a good 2 innings about whether Pat's sweater was orange or salmon.

Fargo said:

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I loved Ron Santo. When the Cubs were doing well, he said yessss! or Yessssssssssir! But his unmistakable groans of "oh no" or "oh my god" were right from the heart. He was a Cub through and through. I'm very sad today and also sad that the Veterans committee of the HOF are so idiotic they can't seem to put those who should be in the HOF, in. He and Pat were a terrific team and he will be missed. He can't be replaced. I had hoped that even with his health issues he would be around for a long time, but knew every day was a gift with him. Rest in peace Ron!

secdelahc said:

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What I loved most about the Pat and Ron relationship is how well they obviously knew each other and got along. I loved how I could tune into any game on the radio, and Pat would be needling Ron about something random, and Ron would be frustrated about it. It was great fun.

Ed Nickow said:

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I am not too young to have seen Ron Santo play. The summers of my first two years of high school were spent in the bleachers for about 1/4 of the home games.

So, of course, I remember waiting for the "heel click" as the team walked to the clubhouse entrance in the left field corner.

This summer, my daughter and I had the chance to spend a couple of hours on the field as part of my Cubs Club membership. One of my favorite pictures is of her doing the Santo heel click in the left field corner.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I never knew my maternal grandfather and my Cubs-fan grandpa died when I was 11. I spent more time listening to Ron and Harry tell stories than I did with either one of my grandfathers. For a lot of us, I think they filled that void.

secdelahc said:

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I brought my friends along to their first baseball game. It just so happened to be at Wrigley. Our seats were right by the ramp that Ron used to go up to get to the booth. We happened to be walking to our seats when he was coming up, and he overheard me talking about this being their first game and the history that has happened at Wrigley. Long story short, he stopped and starting talking to me and my friends about how great it is to be a Cubs fan, and why he loved the Cubs. My friends had no clue who he was, but I was thrilled that RON SANTO took 5 minutes out of his day to chat with some random people.

RIP Ronnie. This Cubs fan will never forget you.

ELRaythar said:

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This is probably my favorite post. It shows how one of a kind Santo was; a high caliber player and person who was a huge fan just living out his dream. In an era where most broadcasters would avoid the fans, he recognized his rightful place as one of us.

yoshiki89 said:

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My favorite Santo moment was during a game a few years ago, someone was repairing the fax machine in the booth; Pat and Ron seamlessly began to play-by-play the repair process and the game simultaneously...

Pat: "Here's the 0-2 pitch to Lee...high for Ball One"
Ron: "Geez, that was a heater"
Pat: "Hm, Ron, looks like this guy is fishing for a different screwdriver"
Ron: "You could tell from here it was too big"
Pat: "He seems to be having some trouble taking the fax machine apart, Ron...lots of moving parts there"
Ron: "I'll say!"
Pat: "Swingandamiss, Lee goes down!"
Ron: "Awww, now there are springs all over the floor, this isn't going well"
Pat: "I wonder if the manual is in the booth somewhere..."

plamorte said:

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Lady in office has been visibly upset about Ronnie all morning. My brother (works here too) is ordering her a pizza from Beggar's for lunch, they are putting a "10" over it in sauce for her. (They said no to doing it with pepperoni because their ingredients go underneath the cheese, boo!)

sloan peterson said:

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I've been behind at work, just opened the Internet-can't believe it. I'm soo angry at all the fools who denied him the HOF, and am so sad. I'm still not 100% and this is not helping...

Rich Beckman said:

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This thread has me laughing and crying at the same time.

Now the Hall of Fame owes Ron two inductions, one as a player and another as a broadcaster.

Dmband said:

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Right on Julie regarding a posthumous induction for Ronnie. Obviously there were a lot of crtics, but I loved Ronnie's approach to the game. Granted there wasnt a ton of top notch analysis lately but who cares. It was fun, funny, and heartwarming at times. For a long stretch I always opted for the Radio broadcast.

Without a doubt the worlds biggest cubs fan. RIP Ronnie

summerguy said:

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I was fortunate enough to have met Ron last summer at an autograph signing at a mall in the suburbs. I brought my grandma with me, who is a huge Cubs fan and Ron was her favorite player- she grew up watching him play and he is about her age. I've never seen her so excited and happy when she got to shake his hand and take a picture with him. This morning, she called me crying and it was so sad... RIP RONNIE

Teebob2000 said:

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I fell in love (the manly kind) with Ronnie the season of '69 when the Cubbies were going all the way, boy! When my friends and I would play baseball, my friend Mike was Glenn Beckert, my friend Dave was Kessinger, and I was Santo. I would have punched either of them in the nose if they tried to be Santo instead of me. I just cried a little bit writing that.

I'm guessing his memorial service will be one of the funniest ever held.

Think about how amazing his playing professional sports at all was, much less to the level (HOF caliber) he achieved. He played before portable blood glucose meters or anything even close. As mentioned above, he had a stash of Snickers bars in the dugout and when he felt his sugar was low, he's eat one. And then he'd go out and play. That's how he controlled his diabetes.

Just read this shit. Incredible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Santo#Major_League_career_statistics_and_honors

Cubs Psychologist said:

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Like most of you all, I never got to see Ronnie play. Unlike most of you, I didn't start listening to Ron & Pat until 2 years ago when I got XM Radio (which was the reason my wife got it for me). I can't recall any specific great memories, because they all were great to me. I finally got a chance to hear the legendary Pat & Ron on my radio...in KY!! His emotions were a great balance with Pat's subtleness and smoothe consistency. I love Ron Santo and today has been really hard because I know he won't be able to give his hall of fame speech (Thanks alot HOF voters). RIP Ron, you will be missed and always loved!!

moedrabowsky said:

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Julie- I dropped a dime on JDRF in Ron's memory-really sweet thing you're doing and I'm hopin' many will do the same. I was 12 years old the year Ron came up and he was an immediate fan favorite for the way he played. Ron was never going to win any broadcasting awards and he never sounded like he had a hanger in his mouth but God, did he make me laugh, cry, scream, yell and moan (and that's just in one game). Somehow, the radio broadcasts just won't be the same without the "old dago." Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace...

Dmband said:

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Billy Williams said it best. When you turn on the radio, you didnt need to know what the score was. You could tell who was winning just be hearing Ron's voice.

HackWilson09 said:

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I can hardly lift my fingers to type today.

I'm really sad about the passing or Ron Santo. Sad for all of us in one sense - at the loss of Ron, at the losses we all endure year after year - but mostly sad for him. To have lived life to the fullest, but miss out on some of the most cherished prizes that he should have had the right to witness in his lifetime.

It's good, though, that he was around long enough to receive plenty of the admiration he so richly deserved. The smiles, the thanks, the #10 on the flag pole, and the millions of dollars he helped to raise for a good cause.

Sleep in heavenly peace, Ron. Thanks a million.

jtbwriter said:

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I'm beyond sad...angry about the hateful, elitist Vet Committee who didn't have the class of a flea in refusing Coach the honor of the HOF. Hopeful that he knew how much he meant to all of us. And giving my best thoughts and prayers to the Santo family for sharing Ron with us all these years. When I get paid, there'll be $10 set aside for #10....a small thank you for what he did for baseball, and for other diabetics.

Wendy C said:

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I remember the heartbreak of '69, how before the fall Santo's unique enthusiasm spurred the team into doing their best. No other Cub enjoyed the game more or suffered more from their failures. But he always came back, ready to fight again.

cubby23(eric) said:

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RIP Ron Santo!

keywestcubfan said:

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Tough day. Really. I'm old enough to have seen him play many times, and met him once at Kitty O'Shea's in the Conrad Hilton. Secdelahc is right. He treated me like I was his best friend.... Yes he was hilarious in the booth, and I laugh at all the stories. Heard quite a few funny things myself and was listening when Brant Brown dropped the flyball in Milwaukee... OH NOOOO!.... What needs to be said is this man was one hard nosed bad ass ballplayer. He took crap from no one on the field, put up great stats, and it's pathetic that he was skunked by the HOF. Shame.

jarowcliffe said:

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It is sad enough that we lost a legend...what I keep thinking back to is that not only are we losing a legend in Ron Santo but we are losing a generation. The Santo, Williams, Banks etc of the MLB is starting to dwindle. Not just the players from that era but the type of player from that era.

Todays ballplayer is so different, they don't play the game with the kind of respect that these guys did. Every generation it is a little less. It really is a shame.

I saw something the other day about Stan Musial, had a bad year and refused to accept his full salary the following year. Would anybody today ever do that? All the players from the Forties that volunteered their best playing years to serve their country, and happy to do it!

Such a sad day for Cubs fans and all of the baseball world...

Edelweiss said:

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I am old enough to have seen Santo play, but was no longer interested in baseball when he was active. I DID see Banks and Williams play. The only time I heard his broadcasts were in the car, or during power outages, or Spring Trainig. I don't think he was such a bad color man, but he was obviously very sick in the last few years. I think it pained us to watch and listen to him because we could see how bad his physical condition was, and we suffered with him. He will be missed.

gravedigger said:

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For the most part, I don't have a favorite Ron Santo memory. What stands out most to me is how the sounds coming from Ron let you as a fan know exactly what was happening. It was a perfect compliment to Pat's perfect verbal descriptions. Ron provided the emotion. As soon as you heard his groan, your heart sunk. As soon as you heard his shouts, you started to shout too before Pat could even describe what happened. He was the emotional conduit to the fans. And it was amazing.

I guess my favorite memory from the booth reinforces the point that he was the unfiltered voice of the fan. It occurred some time when some guy was in the booth singing the 7th inning stretch, hawking whatever it was he was hawking. I believe he was a cyclist or a tennis player or something. In any case, the guy exuded an unbelievable level of arrogance. Ron didn't waste any time. the guy couldn't have been out of hearing range before Ron started in, "Can you BELIEVE that guy? Who does he think he is? My god!" Everybody listening was thinking it; few broadcasters would ever have actually said it.

Steve Dale said:

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When I was on WGN Radio, had Mr. Santo on the air with me a couple of time, as he was concerned that his dog (a Border Collie), Joker didn't like him.

Didn't like Ron? "Impossible" is what I said on-the-air. I likely have that show somewhere on a CD.

I'm not comparing Mr. Santo to a dog...but when things happen, they just go on - focusing on what they can do, not what they can't. Ron was like that. And his enthusiasm for the Cubs, boundless....with merit at time, but boundless. RIP -

wittinator said:

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Thanks for your words Ronnie. Your descriptions of the events at The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field made me feel as thought I was there. Many times you were my partner during my work day, sitting next to me during a long trip in the truck, or just fishing for a bit. I got to introduce you to my sons and my wife, and we made you apart of our summers. Cubs Radio will never be the same,I will miss you severly!

BleacherBoy said:

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He might not have been a "textbook broadcaster" -- buyt that's where Pat excels, and when you talk to your fans for 3 hours at a time in a 162 game season, it's more important to appeal as a friend than as a technician...in this, Ronny excelled.

Ronny may be gone, but his spirit will live on. Not only in the Cubs, but in all the good that he did. Even his memory is generating help for JDRF, like this tribute shirt a friend brought to my attention:

http://www.cubbytees.com/ShirtPages/RonnyAngel.html

We';; miss you, #10

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