Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
By Frankie O
No matter the circumstance, the news always comes as a surprise. I was driving into work on Friday. My morning had, until I turned on my radio, been focused on my thoughts and emotions brought about from watching the movie "The Road" the night before. The movie, adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, was set in a post-apocalyptic world. It told the story of a father and son and their quest for survival. The world in which they lived was bleak and dangerous and seemingly devoid of anything positive. I found it to be haunting and mesmerizing. It brought out every joy and fear that you could have as a parent. During their journey, when the son was questioning the father on why they carried on, the father explained that they were the "good guys" and hopefully would find others that were "carrying the fire" in their hearts. As I learned the news of Ron Santo's passing on Friday morning I found it sad and ironic. If anyone was carrying the fire, it was Ronnie.
Although I had never met him, I, like millions of others, felt I knew him very well. This came from the fact that I had listened to him and Pat Hughes on Cubs radio broadcasts for countless hours since I moved to Chicago. He had the ability to connect to anyone listening because of the undeniable emotion that was behind everything that he said. He broadcast many games that might not have been really important in the scheme of things, but you could never tell by listening to him.
Of course when I got to work, there was only one topic for the day, and like the man himself, the conversations brought a wide degree of emotions. The first response, almost to a person, was that it was a shame that he did not get into the Hall of Fame while he was alive. For what seems like forever, he carried the unwanted designation of being one of the best players, if not the best, not in the Hall. The argument, for or against, is a popular one among hard-core baseball fans. Although where I work, you can guess what the overwhelming consensus is. The slight is one that a lot of us can't figure out. There are reasons that the baseball writers did not vote for him, nor in recent years the veterans committee, but no one seems to want to share them. His very public emotions in dealing with this are something that endeared him to many. To be thisclose to your dream and have it denied would be heartbreaking to anyone, that he dealt with it with class was a measure of who he was. In fact, some would say, it was this bitter disappointment and the ability to get back up and dust himself off and carry on, thinking tomorrow would be better, that made him the ultimate Cub. He was nothing but a reflection of a franchise that has known its share of disappointments for the last 102 years.
But for me, I always get back to one thing: That everything that he accomplished was as a diabetic. He dealt with this disease for most of his life in a time when it was not as, for lack of a better word, easy, as it is now. In fact, it is very celebrated, that for years he tried to hide it from the team. You would think that having to deal with something like that EVERYDAY would instill in a person an understanding of what truly is important in life. That would be measured in the 60 million dollars he raised through his juvenile diabetes foundation and the untold hours he spent helping others sharing his same plight. I would hope that all of us would want to give back and help others during the course of our lives. Ronnie was someone who lived this every day.
I always wondered why someone like this wouldn't make the Hall of Fame a better place. Why a complete measure of HOW and WHAT he accomplished as a player was taken into account. (Much the same as I felt when Buck O'Neil was excluded for his lifetime of contributions.) But ultimately it was not his lot and something that saddens me and many I talk to. What is more important though is it did not keep him from having a tremendous impact with his life. He will be remembered for being one of the best players of his generation. He will be remembered for having a passion for the Cubs that was shared with us all as he provided a soundtrack for our summer. He will be remembered for having a cause and fighting for more than just himself. And for me, most of all, he will be remembered for carrying the fire. Ron Santo was one of the good guys.