i have an admission to make. i doubt it will turn off any of you, but if this was Chicago i might be run out of town.
i was never in love with Ron Santo until he had his second leg cut off.
i grew up at a time when there were very few black people on tv. and as the only black boy in school i would get very happy when id see a black dude in a place of prominence. and for me growing up in the burbs of illinois there was no more prominent place than on WGN in a Cub uniform.
therefore of all the Cubbie heroes of the 70s there were only three who mattered to me, the black ones: Ernie Banks, Billie Williams, and Fergie Jenkins.
because im slow, for the longest time i thought Jose Cardenal was black because of his immensely impressive afro, but once someone put a mic in front of him it because painfully obvious that he was of hispanic descent.
ron santo was a really great cub player. but he was almost invisible to me and by that i mean he wasnt as suave as williams, wasnt Mr Cub like banks, wasnt the ace like fergie, and didnt have a fro to aspire to rock like cardenal. so even though he batted cleanup i barely noticed him unless it was the All Star Game.
younger cub fans discovered santo through his radio broadcasts but because i was older, there were only two cub announcers that i paid any attention to: jack brickhouse and harry caray. and once youve embraced harry it was like staring into the sun: no one else mattered.
to this day i have not one but two pictures of harry on my desk at work.
fortunately for those cub fans who actually stayed in chicagoland there was a resurgence in Santo awareness when it became obvious that he was really suffering from the effects of diabetes.
sure he was a good radio guy, but the real story was he was a Cub who was almost good enough to be a Hall of Famer; but because he had gone through heart attacks, bladder surgery, heart surgery, one leg amputated in 2001 and another leg amputated in 2002 he became a more lovable character who was easy to root for as the evil Hall of Fame committee continued to deny him access to the highest glory in baseball.
last night at 70 years old, Santo ascended to somewhere better than the hall of fame
an even friendlier confine
and i hope that when Ron Santo made it to the pearly gates, St. Peter made him sweat it out for a second or two pretending he didn’t see him on the list, and then said, oh wait whats this, and lifted his sleeve to reveal his only tattoo