[A classic from Santo, as usual, voicing the honest to God truth of Wrigley.]
Cubs fans have never gotten over the loss of Harry Caray or, to a lesser degree, Steve Stone’s abrupt exit from the Cubs booth. Yet, the real mainstay in the Cubs organization who pre- and postdates them was Ron Santo. I first saw Santo play in 1970 at Wrigley when I was 3 or 4. I won’t tell you I remember any play he made that day, because all I can remember is how excited I was to be in Wrigley and see Billy Williams himself in the batting circle, right where we were sitting. While Ernie Banks and other players always came back to visit, Santo seems to me to always have been around. He signed with the Cubs in 1959, debuted in 1960, played at Wrigley until 1973, then for the White Sox in ’74.
Santo spent five decades (pretty much) in and around baseball and the team he loved most. Not bad. Still, there was a lot of frustration in his life: the ’69 pennant loss, disease, and then the Hall of Fame, which denied him admittance again and again. The thing that stands out to me about Santo’s broadcast career was his ability to convey perfectly the frustration of Cubs fans. Jack Brickhouse’s “Hey Hey!” for home runs or Harry Caray’s boozy boosterism “ that’s what you usually remember about broadcasters. It’s always highlight moments like Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard heard round the world” (“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”) that we replay. For me, Santo “ as in the clip above “ voiced better than anyone the undeniable truth of the Cubs history he witnessed, called, and participated in “ frustration. I know that’s not how he would want to be remembered. He was a hugely optimistic Cubs fan as well as a presence in Wrigley. He felt every play on the field personally like he was still down there on third himself. Harry Caray moved from the Cardinals booth to the White Sox to the Cubs without blinking. Could Santo have done the same? I doubt it. The above clip is what Santo did best in the booth, his pitch perfect echo of Cub fans everywhere.