Cubs 101 - Pt 44 - Noooooooooo!
OK, before I get started, the case against Ron Santo as a competent broadcaster can be found here, written by the one and only Mike D. I agree with his opinion pretty much point-by-point, as far as the added value of having Ron Santo in a broadcast booth.
Now that I've done by full disclosure...
Ron Santo was a damn fine third baseman for the Cubs for 14 years. If you go to his Baseball Reference page, you'll see the players he's comparable to are mostly Hall of Famers. Please disregard the guy who calls him the "Greatest Cub Ever", though. I will be the first to tell you that based upon players in the Hall, he certainly belongs. Certainly more than George Kell. Even more than Brooks Robinson, who won an MVP.
He's been denied over and over again, both by writers and by the Veterans. It's not a Gil Hodges/Don Mattingly thing, where the guys wouldn't even merit a mention if they played in Chicago. It's something different.
See, there were 4 legitimate superstars on those "Durocher Cub" teams that had their run from 1967-1972...Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo. Williams should have won at least 1 MVP award, in 1972. I highly recommend you tell him that if ever you meet him. The rant you will hear will be priceless. He was also an iron man, playing in over 1000 consecutive games. Fergie won a Cy Young and struck out 3000, and Ernie won two MVPs, along with hitting 500 home runs.
Santo had none of those, and no single "Homer In The Gloamin'"-type moment. Most people remember him as the guy who clicked his heels when the Cubs won, which was not good form in those days.
Turns out he was just ahead of his time - heel clicking would be minor compared to the preening ballplayers do now.
But the Tribune decided to put him in the broadcast booth, both because he's still popular in Chicago, and because a higher public profile would probably help his case for Cooperstown.
He has used the booth at various times to plead his case, which is fine. Look, there are cases I know I would plead if I had that large an audience. Besides, the producer of the broadcast has the power to tell him to knock it off.
So what do you get with Ron, other than the Campaign for Cooperstown? You get interjections.
and, that memorable day when Brant Brown dropped the fly ball in left, NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Have you ever sat in your living room with a druncle (drunk uncle), watching a Cub game? Sure, we all have. Hell, I've been the druncle at various times.
Ron Santo is everyone's druncle.
He grunts, groans, forgets the score/inning, and doesn't add more than five coherent thoughts to any broadcast. After hearing a few games with Keith Moreland at the microphone, you could see how much more informative a baseball broadcast can be with someone who can actually add analysis to Pat Hughes' play-by-play.
But Santo is different. Along with being everyone's druncle, he's also the hopeless Cub fan in the booth.
Now, there are varying degrees with being a homer. Look at the color analysts in this town. Hawk Harrelson did his shtick with the Yankees for a year, and you can't help but think if the White Sox fired him tomorrow, he'd be just as happy saying "That's an Indians winner!", of Cleveland was where the paycheck lived.
He's a homer like Hawk, sure. But it's far more genuine. If the Cubs told him his services were no longer required, he'd go home, watch the Cubs on TV, and make all the same noises.
Ron Santo, much like Phil Rizzuto in New York, lives for his team. He'll die for his team too, and sometimes does several times within a nine inning period.
I bring up Rizzuto, who was like Santo in so many ways...he was an endless supply of non sequiturs and restaurant plugs, often going on long rambles that were irrelevant to the actual events on the playing field.
What the Yankees did for him, and what the Cubs don't do for Santo, was apply pressure to Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame to induct Rizzuto. They actually made a pledge to boycott the Hall of Fame Game until Rizzuto was inducted. The Cubs don't have that leverage, since there is no longer a Hall of Fame game, but it wouldn't matter, since the Cubs would never have used the leverage anyway.
Back in the days of the Veterans' Committee, they simply stacked the Committee with Rizzuto supporters until he got in. Once he was a Hall of Famer, he was able to ride off into the sunset, secure in his place among baseball immortals.
The ideal scenario would be for the Veterans to just vote him in. He belongs, and he should go in, plain and simple. Once he's elected, the Cubs can give him another Ron Santo Day, and he could become an ambassador for the team, rather than a broadcaster. It works out for everyone.
But, for now, it's Pat and Ron in the booth. It's odd, rambling, and many times incoherent.
But, just like your druncle, it's fun, and you wind up laughing at it all anyway.
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