Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

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Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted 12:19 p.m. Updated 5:21 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. As the manager at Triple-A Iowa, Mike Quade would turn to WGN Radio once his game was finished. Like Cubs fans everywhere else, he immediately knew what was going on by the tone of Ron Santos voice.

It wasnt manufactured for the booth, Quade said. (Id) listen to three words out of Ronnies mouth, three groans, and I wasnt sure how bad we were losing, but I knew it wasnt good. And if he and Pat (Hughes) were having fun, then we were in good shape.

They all have stories here about the towering figure that walked around on prosthetic legs and maintained a childlike enthusiasm for the Cubs that was in Quades words exceptional and sincere.

The Cubs began a season-long tribute with Thursdays Ron Santo Day at HoHoKam Park. There was a No. 10 painted behind home plate. The Cubs also wore No. 10 hats during their workout. That matched the patches on their sleeves for their All-Star third baseman and long-time broadcaster, who died last December from bladder cancer.

We hurt for our dad, Jeff Santo said. Theres mixed emotions. Its a great day, seeing that his number and his life will live on for many generations. Its an honor to us, but it also gets overwhelming, too, because we miss him so much.

Ron would have turned 71 last month, and at this time of year he would get sick of sitting on the couch watching movies.

Every spring it brought a smile, Jeff recalled, because he was ready to come to the park and (see his) second family. That smile and that optimism (he) brought is kind of gone now.

Jeff chronicled his fathers amazing life in the 2004 documentary This Old Cub. He plans to film an update this year, adding footage from the funeral and the statue dedication outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10.

Now Keith Moreland has to replace a legend in the radio booth. Jeff endorsed the choice, saying that Moreland was his favorite player on the 1984 team: He played with the same kind of heart as my father.

That spirit might one day be recognized by the Hall of Fame, though the family long ago built their own Cooperstown at Wrigley Field, with a retired number and soon a statue. In a sense the 2011 Cubs season is dedicated to Ronald Edward Santo.

My dad would be content just knowing (this is) happening, Jeff said. This means everything.

Quade vs. Ozzie

As a Chicago guy, Quade gets it Santo, the entire WGN catalog and the rivalry with the White Sox. As a kid, hed watch Santo and Bozos Circus.

Ringmaster Ned and Bucket No. 6, right? Quade said. Are you kidding me? Absolutely. We got tickets I never (went, but) I think my little brother (got) to go. Somebody in this family finally ended up going.

Quades friends from Prospect High School are still divided Cubs-Sox. On Friday hell bring his team to Camelback Ranch and use the designated hitter, what he described as a little bit of gamesmanship.

Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen enjoyed going back and forth, and even did commercials together, but the 51st manager in Cubs history is probably going to stay out of it.

Well let Ozzie try to steal all the headlines, Quade said. Hes something and I do get a kick out of him, but I dont know hed have to really come after me (to) get much out of me.

All is Wells

Randy Wells was in a good mood after Thursdays 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians and a workshop on dealing with the media held in the Cubs clubhouse that morning. Wells, who enjoys sparring with reporters and making Major League references, has now thrown nine scoreless innings this spring.

Do you think you have the inside track to one of the two open spots in the rotation?

I have no idea, Wells said. Thats not up to me. I learned that in the (session), too. Stay away from vulnerable questions.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

MESA, Ariz. – The Cactus League crowds are different than the ones packed into Wrigley Field. It was only a meaningless split-squad game on a Saturday afternoon in the Arizona sunshine. Finally winning the World Series must have somewhat dulled the edge.

But Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward still thought Rajai Davis would hear it from the sellout crowd of 14,929 at Sloan Park, the what-could-have-been anxiety bubbling up when seeing the Oakland A's leadoff guy who nearly changed the course of baseball history.

"I was surprised he didn't get booed more, but that's just how our fans are," Heyward said. "They're fun like that. They have fun with the game. They acknowledge it. That's pretty cool for Cubs fans to boo you. If anybody boos you from last year, that's kind of an honor, I would say. To be on that side of things, it means you did something great."

As Alfonso Soriano liked to say, they don't boo nobodies. With one big swing, Davis almost unleashed a miserable winter for the Cubs and ended the Cleveland Indians' 68-year drought.

Manager Joe Maddon kept pushing closer Aroldis Chapman, who fired 97 pitches in Games 5, 6, and 7 combined. Davis timed seven straight fastballs in the eighth inning – the last one at 97.1 mph – and drove a Game 7-tying two-run homer just inside the foul pole and onto the left-field patio. In a now-famous rain-delay speech, Heyward gathered his teammates in a Progressive Field weight room as the Cubs regained their composure.

"They booed him, but only the first at-bat," Heyward said. "The second at-bat and the third, I was like: ‘Eh, they kind of just let him off the hook.' They let him be."

The fans who stuck around until the end got to hear "Go Cubs Go" after a 4-3 win. Davis parlayed that big moment into a one-year, $6 million contract with the A's. The Cubs will see the Indians again on Sunday afternoon in Mesa.

"As players, we're all onto the season and enjoying this ride and a new journey," said Heyward, who went 0-for-3 with an RBI as he worked on his new swing. "All the teams that we played in the playoffs are obviously out here in spring training, so it's just really fun and it's good for the makeup of your team when you compete that way.

"You're thrown right back into the fire when you talk about the competition and remembering things that happened in the postseason. But we don't dwell on it too much."

Cubs envisioning ‘hybrid' roles for Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson

Cubs envisioning ‘hybrid' roles for Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs believe Mike Montgomery will be so much more than just the answer to a trivia question or a cameo appearance in the highlight film.

The symmetry became impossible to miss on Saturday at Sloan Park, where the Cubs put the World Series trophy on display behind home plate and set off fireworks at 1:06 p.m. Three minutes later, the guy who threw the last pitch of 2016 threw the first pitch 2017 pitch in Mesa.

That it came against Rajai Davis added to the moment. Scattered boos greeted Davis when the Oakland A's leadoff guy walked toward the batter's box, a reminder of how he almost turned a dream season into a nightmare when he slammed Aroldis Chapman's 97.1 mph fastball onto Progressive Field's left-field patio just inside the foul pole for a Game 7-tying two-run homer for the Cleveland Indians.

A year that began with Montgomery thinking he might be playing in Japan ended in that mosh pit. A lefty who had been viewed as a low-leverage swingman for the Seattle Mariners notched the final out of the World Series for a franchise that hadn't won one since 1908.

"Be ready for anything," Montgomery said when asked about the "hybrid" job description manager Joe Maddon laid out for him and Brett Anderson, the other lefty in the mix for the fifth-starter job.

"The big thing with both of them (is) neither one has really been stretched out anywhere close to 200 innings over the last couple years," Maddon said before a 4-3 split-squad win over Oakland. "So we're thinking it's almost like a hybrid moment. Maybe fold one back into the bullpen while the other one starts. And vice versa. Or just jump a sixth guy in there now and then to keep the other guys from being overworked too early.

"It's in theory right now. We haven't actually laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. If everybody stays healthy, you got six guys that you like right there. It's hard for anybody to say that. That's the point. These guys have not been really satisfactorily stretched out over the last couple years.

"How do we keep them both active and helping us? That's going to be our challenge early and through the beginning part of the season."

Anderson (29) is older and more experienced and working on a one-year, $3.5 million deal that could max out at $10 million if he rips off the injury-prone label and makes 29 starts. Montgomery (27) is the more raw talent (23 career big-league starts) the Cubs now control through the 2021 season.

"There's a lot of different possibilities that they could go with," Montgomery said. "For me, it's just continuing to build up my arm strength and getting my timing down, my mechanics down and that way I'm ready to go and do whatever it is that they need me to."

Pitching in front of 14,929 and an All-Star infield, Montgomery walked Davis and Matt Joyce and notched two strikeouts in a scoreless first inning. Montgomery felt the adrenaline rush, but nothing in Arizona can compare to the 10th inning of a Game 7.

"The sky's the limit," Maddon said. "He's like a 10-plus game winner on an annual basis as a starter. I think he definitely has that within his abilities. I've told him that (winning) 10 to 15 games is within his abilities, no doubt. That comes with fastball command and then knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He's got really high-quality stuff.

"I'd like to think that moment will increase his confidence. But then again, it's a new year. And you have to go out there and pitch."