Frankie O: Santo was one of the good guys

Frankie O: Santo was one of the good guys

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
2:37 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

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.

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gift Ngoepe might not have had the weight of the world on his shoulders but he felt like a continent was counting on him.

Ngoepe, the first African to reach the major leagues, singled in his first plate appearance and Josh Harrison led off the bottom of the first with a home run Wednesday night to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Ngoepe was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and entered the game in fourth inning as part of a double switch and finished 1 for 2 with a walk. The 27-year-old South African, who signed with the Pirates in 2008 as an amateur free agent, led off the fourth with a hit off winless Cubs ace Jon Lester.

"To accomplish this only for me but for my country and my continent is something so special," Ngoepe said. "There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. To be the first person out of 1.62 billion to do this is amazing."

It was so special that Ngoepe nearly broke into tears when he trotted from the dugout to take his positon at second base.

"I told myself not to cry because I'm in the big leagues and I'm a big guy now," Ngoepe said with a smile. "(Catcher Francisco) Cervelli hugged me and I could feel my heart beat through my chest."

A year after winning 19 games in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908, Lester (0-1) is still looking for his first victory after five starts. The left-hander was tagged for six runs - five earned - and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"It's probably the best I threw the ball all year," Lester said. "That's baseball."

Wade LeBlanc (1-0), who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of rookie Tyler Glasnow, got the win.

The fifth leadoff home run of Harrison's career keyed a two-run first that included an RBI double by Cervelli. Andrew McCutchen and Phil Gosselin hit run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that pushed the Pirates' lead to 5-1.

After the Cubs got within two runs, Josh Bell gave the Pirates a 6-3 lead with a solo home run in the sixth inning off Lester. The rookie first baseman has reached base in 11 straight games.

Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer deep into the right-field stands in the eighth inning off Daniel Hudson drew the Cubs within 6-5. Tony Watson then got the last four outs for his seventh save in as many chances.

Glasnow remained winless in nine career starts, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings and requiring 89 pitches to get 10 outs.

Rizzo had four RBIs and Kris Bryant had three hits as the Cubs lost for just second time in eight games while stranding 13 runners. The Pirates won for the third time in nine games.

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

It was just over a week ago when Cubs fans were freaking out about the bullpen's struggles in a weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was understandable, given Cubs relievers allowed 11 runs in the course of blowing two late leads to end that three-game sweep at the hand of the Bucs.

But since then, the Cubs bullpen has been fantastic.

In eight games entering Wednesday night's series finale with the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Cubs bullpen is working on a stretch where they've posted a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over the last 28.2 innings.

In that span — in which the Cubs are 6 — relievers have allowed six runs (five earned) while striking out 33 batters and surrendering just one homer.

They've been especially stingy over the last three games, allowing just five baserunners in eight shutout innings, including three straight scoreless frames to close out a 1-0 victory Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Wade Davis has been the anchor at the back end of the bullpen the Cubs were hoping he'd be when they traded Jorge Soler for him over the winter. Davis is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities and has not allowed a run in 9.1 innings, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks in the season's first month.

Setting up in front of Davis, Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards Jr. have combined to allow one run and three hits in 15.1 innings.

Brian Duensing — who started the year on the disabled list after a back issue sapped his spring training — is still searching for a rhythm and has surrendered six runs and 10 hits in 6.1 innings on the season. Over the last week-and-a-half, the 34-year-old southpaw has allowed more runs (three) than the rest of the Cubs bullpen combined.

Take Duensing's numbers away from that same eight-game stretch and the Cubs bullpen has been even more fantastic — 0.73 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.

Of course, it's still not even May yet, so this stellar stretch is just another small sample size. 

But just like that, the Cubs suddenly have a Top 10 bullpen, tied for the Colorado Rockies for ninth in Major League Baseball with a 3.07 relief ERA.