In the infamous words of Chicago’s beloved Ron Santo at the moment he knew we got dealt a stinging loss, the city collectively just whispered ‘Oh, no…’
Gone? It would be wrong to say he was larger than life, because he epitomized what was so large about it, the very icon who lived it with such love and joy and pure heart, to the fullest, through good times and bad and always with you, his friend. Which is why the city has had the collective wind knocked out of us, sports fans or not, cross-town rivals or Cubs fanatics or anyone who ever encountered Ron Santo in any way. Because he finally succumbed, and as a friend of mine put it in an email….he’s in a better place than the Hall of Fame.
The Trib sports guys can’t find enough to say about him, but here’s some of what began coming out over the weekend.
This loss will take longer than most for Cubs fans to get over.
“This day and age you get cookie-cutter analysts who are so homogenized that you’ll never get another Ronnie,” Swirsky said in a phone interview.
The Cubs lost more than a voice in the booth. They lost the heart of an organization, scar tissue and all, who touched the souls of Cub fans across America from ages 8 to 80. A guy who made the confines friendlier every day he came to work at Clark and Addison. The closest thing the Cubs had to a face of the franchise.
Who fills that void now?
You can’t replace Santo, you copy his spirit. You find a way to find the good in everything, every day. You laugh at yourself as heartily as you laugh with others. You suffer without complaint and stand tall in the face of disappointment. You battle.
“The biggest fan base lost its biggest fan,” said Blackhawks president John McDonough, a member of the Cubs front office for 24 years. “We shouldn’t grieve today, we should celebrate a guy who played extra innings for a long time in life. He was a miracle.”
In doing every little thing with joy and hope and the eternally optimistic attitude that eludes most of the rest of us at least some of the time.
“This year” was always the Cubs’ year, in Santo’s estimation. And when it turned out it wasn’t, well, then “next year” would have to suffice.
“Ronnie was a completely unique character,” said Pat Hughes, Santo’s longtime partner on Cubs radio broadcasts. “There’s no way we will ever know someone like him again.”
“He always stayed positive, always plowed ahead…
Remembering Ron Santo, some imagine that now, in eternal life, he has the legs again to pull off his famous heel-clicking jump for joy.
Ron Santo is entering a new league, the highest level of all. And there he will never again be betrayed by his passion, his perseverance, his enormous love of life, the joy he found amid more pain and heartache than any dozen men should have to endure.
Bladder cancer reportedly claimed the Cubs’ greatest cheerleader, who had battled diabetes for most of his life. He slipped into a coma on Wednesday and died Thursday in Arizona. He was 70, going on 17.
If these things could be measured like runs crossing the plate, the finally tally for Santo would be something like this: Delight 5,410, Bitterness 0…
No matter the heartbreak, no matter the disappointment, no matter the physical challenge, No. 10 always took comfort in one of the greatest truths about baseball: Tomorrow there’s another game.
For generations of Chicagoans, Santo was a reminder that light follows darkness.
And that’s no small thing when you’re a Cubs fan.
Or any other member of the human race…