With a smile on our face, a tear in our eye and a hole in our hearts, we lay the legendary Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo to rest. This is the last chance for family, friends and fans to pay their last respects. While Santo died a week ago, I am still in shock and still am unable to fully believe that he is gone. Even though he is physically gone from this plain of existence, his memory and spirit will live on forever.
Former teammates and players alike flew in to pay their final resects to a man who meant more to the city of Chicago than most anyone else to ever grace this city with their presence. More so than Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg (both of which were present at the ceremony) and other former players who were Cubby Blue through their careers, that spent any time around Santo. He touched many lives.
Friends of Ron Santo spoke from the heart today at his funeral. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and long time friend and partner in the radio broadcaster booth Pat Hughes spoke about their experiences with the legendary Cub, and should be Hall of Fame player. Tears were falling with myself, and I am sure with everyone else who loved him, with every word that was spoken throughout the funeral.
All three men spoke on stories they had of their interactions with him, as well as how he had touched their lives. Mr. Ricketts spoke of knowing him as both a fan and as an owner, Selig did likewise. However, most fitting, Hughes spoke last and told stories of their time spent together and told some of his favorite memories of his time in the booth his fallen friend. The burning toupee story, the Brandt Brown incident and the jersey retirement memories were among the stories that were shared and remembered.
In one of the most fitting moments of the service, the pallbearers that were chosen to carry his casket into the cathedral, were men who carried Santo through his broadcasting career; so one would see the situation to be fitting for them to carry him on his final journey.
Now that fans have said their final goodbyes, the time has come to sadly look forward to the upcoming season. There is plenty of time to speak of player and personnel moves, so I will look at quite another aspect. How to pay a fitting tribute to the fallen legend.
The 2011 Cubs are bound to do something to honor the late Santo, as well they should. But just in case they are struggling for ways to immortalize him, if only for a season, allow me, as well as several other Cub fans to offer some suggestions.
Permanent fixtures would include the following.
1. Give him the same honor you gave to the late great Harry Caray. Just like they have a caricature of Caray on one of the windows for the television broadcast booth, they should permanently fix the number 10 on one of the windows of the radio booth. Using just the number makes sense for Santo, just like using a caricature of Caray made sense for him. During ballgames, you saw Caray’s face every day, but you only heard Santo’s voice. He was just as big of a part of the Cubs experience as Caray was, and should be given the same honor.
2. Another permanent memorial they should give to Santo, is to build a statue in his honor. While I wrote about how against building statues I was a few months ago, I feel that if Caray has one, then Santo deserves one as well. Both were broadcasters, but Santo was more than that to the Cub fans. He was an iconic figure. I still do not want to see a slew of other statues, but if anyone deserves one, that would be Santo.
Now, for just this season there are a few options that we the Cub fans feel the team should honor him. These are just some fitting tributes to a man who was so beloved by so many. Some of these ideas are based off of the tributes given to Caray after his death as a jumping off point, because if he was worthy of such attributes, than Santo should be as well.
3. For the 2011 season, though not likely, the Cubs should wear the 1960s era Cubs uniform all season long (or at very least on opening day). What a sight that would be too see, and tears would be brought to the eyes of all fans who witness such a site.
4. While wearing that era’s uniform all season (and maybe even for a game) is unlikely, they should put a #10 patch on their uniforms all season long. Again, if Caray was worthy of such an act of remembrance, than why not Santo as well? If you remember the season after Caray died, they had a caricature of him on their uniforms all season long, why not give Santo that same honor? He is just as deserving, if not more so, than Caray ever was.
5. Because Santo play third base, the number 10 should be branded on third base for the whole season. That was his position, which was a place that took close to 30 years to finally have a permanent fixture at. He was the best third baseman the Cubs have ever had, and there is a good chance that he is the best they ever will have.
6. Then, we have the flags. Much like they have done since his death, there should be the Santo flags flying at half mass all season long. On either side of the marquee sign, they should keep the number 10 Santo flags flying for the season, or at very least on opening day.
Finally, with the news that Santo will be cremated, his ashes will be scattered at Wrigley Field. However, I believe that I have a more fitting idea of what to do with them. There has long been a rumor that the late Steve Goodman has had his ashes buried below home plate at Wrigley Field. This however, is false. His ashes were partially sprinkled at home plate and the rest were scattered and allowed to blow over the wall, as was his request in his song “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request”. The rumor of his ashes gave me an idea of what to do with Santo’s. They should be buried below third base, a place that he called home for several years.
One thing is certain though, no matter how they decide to honor him, Cubs baseball will never be the same.
Yesterday, the news broke of the passing of the legendary third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, Ron Santo. The story and account of his life completely took over WGN Radio, and was headline news on radio and news stations across the country. There is little that I can say, that has not already been said by all the mourners that voiced their opinions on him yesterday, but I would not be doing myself, or all my blog followers a service if I sat idly by and kept quite.
To many Cub fans, Santo was a hero ( a term I rarely use for sports athletes), because of his life long battle with diabetes. He has become an inspiration to so many children who have been diagnosed with the disease, and never missed an opportunity to reach out to these children when he was notified of their cases. He truly was a class act, who was one of a kind. Because of his dedication to the Juvenile Diabetes Relief Foundation, they have moved light years closer to discovering a cure, even though the are still seemingly millions of miles away from doing so. I know that seems to be insignificant due to how far they have yet to go, but just imagine where they would be without the millions of dollars they have received do to his support?
To many more Cubs fans though, whether you knew him or not, he was looked upon as a family member, and was probably as close to a family member a complete stranger could ever be. How could he not be? Spending countless hours listening (and in some cases interacting) with someone every year for two decades tends to build a bond between you. He was a part of our summer family, and will be sorely missed.
As talented as his partner Pat Hughes is, listening to the radio for ball games will never be the same. As “unprofessional” as some people called his work behind the microphone was, many Cub fans loved him for that very “unprofessional” work. He was the fans voice in the booth, reacting just as we did in the stands, or in our homes and cars. He spoke our minds, and truly was the biggest Cub fan there ever was or will be.
No one will ever forget a night in late September back in 1998, when Brandy Brown dropped what was an easy out to end the game and lock up the Cubs wildcard birth that year., which ironically was on the 90th anniversary of the famous “Bonehead Murkle” play. Santo’s cries of “Oh Nooo” still ring in my ears to this very day.
I will never forget my first meeting with Santo, which sadly was the only time I got to meet him. My very first Cubs Convention was back in January of 2007, and have gone every year since with my mother (her birthday and Christmas gift). There we were exiting our room to head down for the activities of the day, and who do we see walking down the hall? Good old number 10, he was staying on the same floor as us. Even though he was with company, he stopped and talked to us after we waved to him. He even signed autographs for us. Throughout the weekend we saw him a few more times, and he always had a friendly wave for us.
Fast forward to 2003, I was there for his jersey retirement. That is a day that I will never forget, and can recall some of the key moments from that ceremony. I remember that the day was overcast, clouds were completely blocking out the sun. However, when Santo was introduced, almost miraculously the sun broke through the clouds. Was that a coincidence? Most likely, but still an amazing sight to see. When he said the retiring of his jersey meant more to him than the Hall of Fame, I believe him. He was a Cub through and through.
All due respect to Ernie Banks, Ron Santo was the true Mr. Cub. No one ever did more for the Cubs, than he did. Banks may have been the better player, but Santo gave the Cubs everything he had day in and day out until the day of his death. His presence shall be missed.
Rest in Peace Ronny, we love you.