Doug: Late last week I lost one of my earliest "favorite players" and a real character in the game of baseball. Chicago Cubs third baseman and radio broadcaster Ron Santo passed away at the age of 70 at his winter home in Arizona from complications related to bladder cancer. As anyone who follows the Cubs knows, Santo had suffered greatly in recent years from a progressively debilitating battle with diabetes. In the past ten years, he'd lost both legs and had been forced to miss several Cubs road trips due to various sorts of "being under the weather".
Doug: I first heard of Santo when I was a quite wee lad, and recall watching Cubs games on WGN television. Growing up near Chicago, the Cubs were very popular and a favorite team of both of my grandfathers. Entering high school, with Santo long-since retired, the Cubs came to be "my" team as well. The minute they clinched the 1984 division title while playing in Pittsburgh is a memory burned into my mind from my freshman year in college. By then, my hero was Ryne Sandberg, who won the MVP of the National League that season.
Doug: In 1990, Ron Santo joined the WGN Radio booth. Retired just 15 years at the time, Santo would go on to cover the Cubs for the next 20 summers, first alongside Thom Brennaman and then later with his long-time partner Pat Hughes. These last many years were a joy -- Hughes and Santo were the best combination. Hughes was the matter-of-fact guy, coyly baiting Ronnie at times into what could be an innings-long dialogue on who-knows-what; Santo almost always was duped into going along. Favorite broadcast memories include Hughes chiding Santo about his hairpieces, and Ronnie talking about the time his "gamer" caught fire from an overhead heat lamp in New York! I'll also never forget what a homer Santo was, living and dying with every Cub triumph, but most often as we all know, their tragedies (dropped balls, baserunning gaffes, etc. -- hey, they're the Cubs!). Ronnie's familiar groans and cries of "Oh, NOOOOOOOOOO!!" were just hilarious, even if I was cursing those lovable losers at the same moment.
Doug: So Ronnie -- enjoy! You are no longer suffering the effects of your health, and maybe, just maybe... you can put in a word with the Big Guy and get those Cubbies to the World Series. Even in spite of themselves.