Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Ron Santo

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Preferred candidate will have played with the Chicago Cubs

On Dec. 21, the Tribune Company posted a public job listing to its corporate website and Career Builder (which has since been taking down) for the vacant broadcasting position left in the wake of Ron Santo's death. The ad was simple and to the point.

"Preferred candidate will have played with the Chicago Cubs -- or played major league baseball with previous broadcast experience as a game analyst."

I can't imagine there's a market of unemployed former Cubs players and color analysts large enough to necessitate a public listing, but whatever works, I suppose. That being said, January is coming to a close and WGN has yet to name a replacement. Is it fair to ask what is taking so long in replacing Ronnie?

The latest rumors have Keith Moreland and Dave Otto as the finalists for the gig, but shouldn't we be beyond rumors at this point? As far back as I can remember, Ronnie had one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel. His dexterity issues became abundantly clear last season as he was frequently prevented from traveling with the team due to his health issues. Am I supposed to believe there was no line of succession in place? Puh-lease.

The way I see it, there exists four possible reasons for this ass-draggin' (not to be confused with the strip club down the street from Rob's house, the Ass Dragon)...

1. Those responsible for hiring Santo's replacement are taking their time in order to honor the departure of a Cubs legend, but methinks the job listing on Career Builder probably ruined that.

2. As rumored a few weeks ago, Kerry Wood does indeed have a post-retirement job as the Cubs radio color analyst secured. If this were to be true, the current opening would be nothing more than a temp job and very unattractive to potential candidates. Every day the position remains open gives this rumor more viability.

3. Tribune Company, WGN and the Cubs are incompetent organizations unable to reach a mutual agreement on a replacement. Occam's razor anyone?

4. Maybe, just maybe, the Cubs aren't the draw they used to be. In concert with AJ's three-day haircut theory, perhaps all those alum the Cubs hoped would offer their services to replace Santo never turned up because they took a look at where this organization might be going in the next few years and they didn't want to be a part of it.

I know the Cubs would prefer to fill Ronnie's position with one of their former players, but at this point I'm willing to settle for the guy who doesn't make it seem like he was the last man standing for a job nobody wanted.

Why Ron Santo matters

On the surface, it seems pretty cut-and-dried.

Ron Santo, longtime Cubs third baseman and radio announcer, died today at the age of 70, from complications of bladder cancer. 

So why did it take me nearly an hour to type that sentence?  It is because of my high esteem for the man, that I wanted to write something profound; but I ended up just keeping it generic, so I could just get past it.  It is a huge part of my childhood dying.

Ron Santo at one of his many "days"Starting sometime in 1965, the Chicago Cubs started Ernie Banks at first base; Glenn Beckert at second; Don Kessinger at short; Ron Santo at third; Randy Hundley behind the plate; and Billy Williams in left.  Every fourth day during that time, Fergie Jenkins would pitch.  Some other guys would play in the outfield, and in 1970, Banks gave way, but through 1973, that lineup remained constant.

Now, I understand these guys never won anything in the standings.  But there hasn't been another day-to-day continuous lineup like that for the Cubs since then.  In fact, maybe except for the Big Red Machine of the 1970's has there been a team like that anywhere.

What's more, not only were the Santo-era Cubs long-lived in the day-to-day lineups, but they have been long-lived in real life as well.  That main core, Santo and Kessinger, Beckert and Banks, Williams and Hundley and Jenkins were still intact, until today.  They have been frequent visitors and contributors to Wrigley Field since their on-field breakup 37 years ago.  Some as coaches, others as announcers, but they all reunite whenever one of their own are honored, when a number is retired.

Banks will be 80 next year; Williams 72; Jenkins, Hundley and Kessinger 68; Beckert, Santo's roommate on road trips, was born the same year as Ronnie.  The point is, not only were these the Cubs of my extreme youth, but for over 45 years, this core of men have been a team, on the field and off.  In my mind, and I am sure in the minds of all Cub fans my age, they are all one; and one for all.

It is amazing that they all have lived as long as they have; especially Ronnie, who had every excuse and reason to slow down and try to preserve himself, but would have no part in such a thing.  Literally, parts of him were falling off - not just his legs, but his internal organs were one-by-one giving up on him.  The physical Ron Santo was dying before our very eyes, but his soul, his great big Cub fan soul, would not rest until today.  Players, coaches, and fellow media members could not honestly believe that he would keep dragging himself up to the booth, on flights, on road trips, in all types of April frost and July heat, to watch and describe what was frequently a poor product on the field.

He had no reason to prove anything, and I honestly don't believe he was trying to prove anything.  Some say he kept coming out in a desperate, futile attempt to keep himself in the public eye for Hall of Fame consideration.  There's an oxymoron for you there, "Hall of Fame consideration".  Like the numbnuts in charge of casting the votes have had any for Ron Santo over the years.

That's crap.  No, Ronnie kept going to games because he knew nothing else.  He was a Cub, and a Cub fan, perhaps the greatest who ever lived.  He was at the park for no other reason than it was where he belonged. 

To me, more than Harry Caray or anyone else I can possibly think of: not having Ron Santo around anymore is just not going to feel right.  He was, as always, where he should have been: the heart and soul of the Cubs. 

It's a Sad Day for all Chicago Cubs.

By now you know that Cub legend Ron Santo passed away last night after slipping into a coma on Wednesday. There are things that hurt in life, but this truly hurt me this morning. I felt sad, not of his passing, but of the unfair nature of his life.

Santo, by all accounts, was a tremendous person and fan. It is something that all people in our society could take from him. He played baseball with pain, while keeping a secret from his teammates. I'm not sure Santo would have been able to deal with playing in today's game, because we know everything about our athletes. I only wish I could have lived to actually see him play, because he was a true joy to listen to on the radio.

Granted, Ron was not the most talented broadcaster, but he was the most honest one I know. He didn't blow smoke, only a few "Oh noos!" and "gosh darnits" when things were bad. Ah, but when things were good it was easy to get lost in his laughter as he brought true sense of excitement every time the Cubs were playing well. Santo had our dream job of being able to root from the press box and not get in trouble. That is something I don't take for granted, because it is frowned upon in most journalism circles. I only wish I could have

Winning a World Series would have been a nice ending for Santo, but those things are hard to come by as we all know far too well. The true tragedy was the fact that the Hall of Fame is missing on the great third baseman's of all time. I get sick just thinking about it today. My guess is that he will get in at some point, but it will feel empty since we will not be able to see the joy on his face.

If you have never seen This Old Cub, it is time for you to go out and find a copy. It will be something that you will never forget. It's a wonderful film for all Cub fans and the best tribute for a man that was one of us. The only difference was he got to wear the uniform that we only dreamed of wearing. Please comment below with your favorite memories as this becomes a day we celebrate the life of a true Cub Fan.

RIP, Ron.

Cubs 101 - Pt 44 - Noooooooooo!

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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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Cubs 101 - Pt. 11 - Ronnie

OK! Show of hands...which one of you is The Biggest Cub Fan in the World? Alright, those of you NOT named Ronald Santo, born in Washington state in 1940, put your hands DOWN.

One more pop quiz - who should be theeveryday "guest conductor" of the Seventh Inning Stretch? The marketing fools at 1060 W. Addison have forfeited their rights to pick appropriate guests, after the debacle that was Denise Richards(again...Denise Richards?!? Come on...what transpired theredeserves punishment that involves upside down hanging, permanent markers, Charlie Sheen and whatever bodily secretionsol' Carlos can conjure up at the time). But I digress, Ron Santo and ONLY Ron Santo should be singing "Take Me Out to the BallGame".

Now, onto what really matters - Santo in his playing days. The so-called "1969 Cubs", which was actually a team that finished no worse than third between 1968-1972, also finished no better than second. Of course the late 60’s – early 70’s team boasted three current Hall-Of-Famers, as well as 65% Hall-of-Famer Ron Santo.This is not a low swipe on the remaining original portion of Santo’s body that he still has dominion over, but, rather, the percentage he tends to end up with after the votes are counted. As we all know, the biggest argument behind the non-inclusion of nine-time All Star and Juvenile Diabetes sufferer Santo is that, for a team that won nothing, electing a fourth Hall-Of-Famer seems ludicrous. Many feel if it weren’t for the success of his three other teammates, Ronnie on his own merits would have been in there like a shot.

Well. At the time of his participation for the Cubs, Santo's accomplishments were overshadowed by Williams and Banks, despite his All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves. Considering the coverage he has received during his last four HOF near-misses, his constant presence on the radio, the documentary his son produced, etc, many would quite correctly state that Mr. Santo is over-exposed now. However, we feel that when discussing the greats of those Cubs teams, Ron Santo belongs in the conversation.

The first irony about my personal recollections of Santo was, although he is and was profoundly diabetic, the thing I enjoyed the most about him was the Ron Santo pizzas they sold in the stands. Santo has always dabbled in the restaurant business. But his first foray into food was the Ron Santo pizza, a very personal-sized wheel of dough slathered with some red sauce and a couple of bits of cheese and sausage that I would just stump for (no pun intended, again) upon entering the Friendly Confines until I was forcibly dragged out.

I’m not even sure if Santo was able to “enjoy” his product, because of his illness, but I sure did. I can’t even imagine what I would have to say about his pizza now – there’s a product at the stores called “Oscar Mayer’s Pizza Lunchables” that I believe resembles the late lamented Ron Santo pizza – but if we’re honestly recounting memories of the Cubs greats, I have to first and foremost disclose my love of Santo’s overpriced ballpark snack.

Most folks today either know Santo as the long-suffering monosyllabic drama boy who sits next to Pat Hughes every day on WGN Radio 720, or the equally long-suffering perpetual candidate on the Veterans Committee ballot for baseball’s Hall-of-Fame. Here in Cub World, Ronnie is most definitely a sympathetic figure, for how dare the egotistical dicksticks like Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt conspire to keep a withering double-amputee out of the Hall? I suspect in the rest of the baseball world, who hold statistical tables to be sacred screeds, Santo is regarded as a pathetic grandstander who is too dim to give up.

The truth is, as a player, and factoring his disease out of the equation, Santo was not as spectacular as Banks, or as dependable as Williams, or as dominating as Jenkins. I can remember several times he failed in the clutch, and although we all loved him, partly because of his outsized personality, or maybe because of the pizzas, we didn’t get the same feeling of security out of him that we did from Williams, Jenkins, or even second baseman Glenn Beckert and shortstop Don Kessinger. He put out maximum effort, and was a fiery, emotional leader. There were plenty of opportunities and occasions to “check the pulse” of the Cubs during this interval of near-greatness. If you wanted to hear the company line, check with Banks. If you wanted to test the true temperature, you found Ronnie Santo and asked him how he felt at the time.

Santo was an “alpha-dog”, which his manager Durocher seemed to appreciate publicly, but in private Leo, being an alpha-dog himself, frequently butted heads with his third baseman. One day in particular, in 1971, the sparks between the two ignited into a raging and destructive inferno.

It is still unclear who initiated the idea for Santo to have his “Day”, similar to ones enjoyed by Banks and Williams.We do knowthat Santo chose this day to publically disclose, after an 11-year career, his affliction with Type 1 diabetes, which at that point in time was basically a death sentence, and we also know thatall donations associated with the day went to diabetes research.It was an emotional day for Santo, which should be unsurprising to anyone who has heard one of his “broadcasts”. Will Brant Brown ever be able to escape “Noooooo! Noooooo!! NOOOOOOO!!!? But I digress, again. Anyway, as you can imagine, the “day” was set a long time in advance, and as luck would have it, the late August date fell in the midst of what was becoming an annual Cub swoon in a tight divisional race, and Durocher felt the team did not need this type of ceremony to deflect focus from playing on the field.

Durocher needed sensitivity training about as much as Santo needs to lay off of theventi mochaswith double sugar.When Leo suggested to Ronnie that the day was unnecessary, Santo, um,didn't take it well.This resulted ina clubhouse fracas, in the dog days of August, in the cramped environs of Wrigley, and factions formed. Recent acquisitions Joe Pepitone and Milt Pappas, both noted 'clubhouse lawyers', took up for Ronnie against Leo, while other players such as Jim Hickman stood up against what was construed as insubordination against management. The team’s already tenuous support of Durocher was further endangered, and according to some accounts, certain guys never spoke to each other again after Santo’s "day".

I did manage to ask Fergie about it recently. What I said was, verbatim, "Fergie, what really happened back on Ron Santo Day?" And he replied, verbatim, "Aw, you're not gonna get me to say anything bad about my good friend Ron Santo." Consider: what was asked, and what was replied, and draw your conclusion, if you wish.

I didn’t think in these terms at the time, of course, but thinking back, I guess I knew I was watching ‘greatness’ when I saw Banks, Williams, and Jenkins. When Stargell, Clemente, Gibson, Brock, Mays, McCovey and Aaron, Bench, Perez, and Seaver came into town, I knew we were in trouble. I honestly did not feel that way when watching Ron Santo. In my eyes, Santo’s overall presence, as a diabetic, as a polarizing figure on the “1969” team, as a controversial figure during his “day” or during his criticism of Don Young, and as the color man on the radio broadcasts and as, arguably, the biggest Cubs fan in the world - if you take the whole picture in consideration, his place in the game is large enough to warrant enshrinement. But solely as a player,all else being equal, he was very good, not great.

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Stump for Santo

Like many others, this blog has a tremendous appreciation for Ron Santo.  Rob, for example, believes he should be the only guy to sing the 7th inning stretch, as he is the ultimate Cub fan and perhaps the most beloved living member of of the Cub family. I think we're still trying to figure out the best way to make clear to WGN that Santo should be the man, but in the meantime something a little more urgent has come up.

In the near future, the Veteran's Committee will be voting again to theoretically induct new - and overlooked - members into the Hall of Fame.  So far, since the V.C. changed after Ted Williams went ice, they haven't voted in anybody as it turns out that many of the living Hall of Famers feel that their society loses value whenever a new member is added to their ranks.  In other words, those epic douchebags don't want to vote for Ron Santo because like your redneck cousin at the high society wedding, having him at the party will apparently bring things to a screeching halt.

However, Ronnie is deserving.  He came within 5 votes 2 years ago, and maybe this year he will finally cross the threshold.  Or, maybe he'll be hosed again.  I wish there was a way to actively stump for him, but short of stalking the card conventions and harranging the Hall of Famers, there's little we can do but hope.

I guess it is I who am the guest host on the radio today

Both Jon Miller of KXNO and Kurt are being gracious enough to let my sorry ass on the air today, primarily to get my fledgling cause off the ground.  Oh yeah, some of you may have the memory of a asiatic spotted beetle.  I think Ron Santo should sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the seventh inning full time, in every park in the majors, and most of AAA, AA, and high A.  But, taking logistics into account, I'll settle for just all of the Cubs home games.

Fact is, though, I don't have a clue on how to set up a petition.  I really don't have any preferences on how I want to do it - I just want a way for people to be able to spend 30 seconds putting in their two cents, and have something keep track of them all so I can send it to whomever is doing John McDonough's old job.  Who that is, I'm not exactly sure, either.  They didn't really so much fill his position as much as split his duties amongst several existing underlings.

Anyway, I'm going to tell you what I am going to tell Jon today, when he invariably asks how people can get on board.  If and when I figure this out, I will let you all know about it HERE.  So come HERE.  Right HERE.  Goatriders.org.  None of us are confused about it...we're all straight?  Right HERE!

I'll let one of my other esteemed colleagues talk about Marky Mark's big night.  He was due, and it was outstanding to wake up this morn and to hear about it.  Go DeRosa!!  Go Cubs!

Ron Santo should be the full time 7th Inning Conductor

Ron Santo with a couple of jamokesMaybe its your favorite part of a ballgame at Wrigley Field, maybe you've become, like myself, totally disgusted at times once the seventh inning stretch rolls around.  Y'all are going to have to give me this indulgence today so I can advance my agenda.

It was over ten years ago that Harry Caray died, and in the wake of his passing, an understandably stunned Cubs front office made the decision to "honor" him by permitting "celebrities" with ties to the Cubs to be "guest conductors" of the seventh inning stretch, the singing of "Take Me Out..."

Like most of what John "Midas" McDonough has touched in his life, it turned to gold.  In probably its ultimate low point, Coach Mike Ditka ran up the stairs to the pressbox, and while huffing and puffing and probably blowing above 0.08 on the breathalyzer, he set the all time land-speed record for the song.  Of course, in THIS particular mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging hick town, anything Da Coaaaacch does is wonderful and santicfied, and thus cemented the Guest Conductor status forevermore.  So what was meant to be a tribute is now entering its eleventh year.

And, I gotta tell you all, it has sucked for a long time, and compared to the exuberance of the post-game celebrations lately, it is lame, tired, and as forced as a Britney Spears intervention.  This year in particular, if you care to relive it via Len and Bob's blog, we have had some real winners. 

For every Gracie and Sut appearence, we have had to sit through: the pouty and disinterested Pete Wentz-Simpson; the tastee but hugely untalented Julianne Hough; Dodger-for-Life Tommy Lasorda; Tim Meadows (WHO?); Simon LeBon??  Tom Arnold???  The Chicago Sun, what?  James VanDerBeek?  What, wasn't Shia LeBeouf available?  And my personal, all time favorite, the spoiled, pampered, entitled Addison Driscoll football team, the very same role models who drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty 20 minutes BEFORE kickoff against my school in the state semis.  Asshole dungeating herpes-sores...

Anyway, there is NOTHING more uncomfortable to have to sit through than the "interviews" they do before the stretch (on the radio side) and after the stretch on the tv side.  The "visit" with Tim Meadows was as awkward and painful as an ex-wife dragging her chewed-off fingernails against an old slate blackboard.

On the other hand...

On April 21st, they got it right, the perfect balance of tribute, celebration and mushmouthed senility that Harry himself embraced for the nearly 20 years he manned the booth.  Think about it for a second - WHO is the Biggest Cubs Fan in the World?  Even someone like myself must defer to superior Cubosity.  Someone who, doubtless, will end up paying the ultimate price someday while in the booth, probably after another bonehead play by Ronny Cedeno. 

One man should be the standard bearer.  The tributes to Harry will live on forever, but it is time to anoit Ron Santo as the keeper of the 7th Inning key.  His version of "Ballgame" is just as magical and wonderful as Harry's was, in his own style, and instead of this parade of mopes with the most tenuous of "Cubs ties", let the man who really Bleeds Cubs Blue carry on the tradition.

I am announcing right here and now the formation of a petition that you all can sign and I will then present some how, some way, to Cubs Management to install once and for all, Ron Santo as Permanent Conductor.  I must thank my wife for the idea, for we both share this sentiment. 

Once I get this formed, come right back here to Goatriders for more information on how YOU can make your voice heard!

Cart before horse, but Ronnie delivers regardless

The Sun-Times ran the 'World Series Speculation' piece instead of the usual crosstown buildup drivel. Aside from a feint sense of doom, (I'm seriously trying to put that aside. It's all about confidence. We'll never win the Series if we're afraid of our own shadows), I actually enjoyed the trip down imagination lane.

But better than imagination lane is Ron Santo's quote.

I've been here since I was 20 years old," former Cubs third baseman and current broadcaster Ron Santo said. "There's no doubt in my mind that there are Cubs fans, White Sox fans and hardly any in-between fans. I'm afraid somebody would get shot."

I don't know why, but I can't help but laugh when reading that.

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