I apologize ahead of time, I can tell that this is going to be a rambling post.
I’m not a heartless bastard. Most people assume I am because of my casually cynical manner. Granted, this aspect of my personality has aided me when I have to write a negative review, but it’s only one trait out of many that make me who I am. While I’m much more vocal about the things that annoy or anger me, I really do have a lot of love for many things. There is, of course, my love for my family, friends, and pets. Of course, I love movies and surprisingly, for someone who is as invested in the arts as I am, I love sports.
More specifically, I love the Chicago Cubs. I have for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t an easy thing to grow up a Cubs fan in southern Missouri, but I feel like it built character.
It’s an abusive relationship–I love them unconditionally and they let me down time and time again, punishing my faith and loyalty with rotten teams or disastrous meltdowns in the playoffs. Yet season after season, I return for more abuse. Maybe that’s why I, like so many Cubs fans, became so attached to Ron Santo.
I never saw Santo play (his final season in the majors was the year I was born), but after I moved to Chicago, I became a fan of listening to him call Cubs games on the radio. He was the ultimate fan, living and dying with every game the Cubs won or lost. Truth be told, he wasn’t the best color commentator in the game of baseball, but he was among the most fun. I often found myself echoing his cries of anguish and hoots of joy. And it was entertaining and enlightening to listen to his tales of baseball in the ‘60s before big money, steroids, and strikes tried to suck the fun out of the game. He was a treasure trove of anecdotes from a bygone era
It was a cruel kick to the stomach to wake to the news of his passing, this morning. The cynical side of me thinks it’s foolish to grieve for someone I never knew personally, but I can’t help but feel grief at the passing of a man who became a routine part of my life for six months of the year over the past eight years.
I will continue to be a massive, pathetic Cubs fan–It’s an incurable disease, but the games will be just a little less fun without Ron Santo in the booth shouting and cringing, rambling on bizarre tangents about the smell of rain, and explaining the difference between his “gamer” and his other hairpieces.
In the end, Ron Santo was the ultimate Cubs fan. I hate like hell that he never got to see them win a World Series, but he got to live the dream of playing for them for fourteen years and talking baseball in the booth at Wrigley Field for another twenty. That’s a damn good life and one worth celebrating.