The Case Against Ron Santo


Ron:  What did Ramirez do last time?  Pat:  Ron, he hit a homerun that killed Ronnie Woo-Woo. Ron:  Oh yeah that's right.  How could I forget?  And who is this new pitcher for Philadelphia?  Pat: Ron, that's still Jamie Moyer, today's starter.No, this is not an argument against Ron Santo’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame. Only a true idiot—or an insecure weirdo like Mike Schmidt—would make such an argument. Santo has long been deserving, and his exclusion is worthy of an absurdist drama.

It is, however, this very debate that has wound its way through the years to the situation with which we’re faced currently—an 800 pound gorilla in the broadcast booth whose antics have gone from endearing to totally unlistenable.

How did we get here? Speaking for myself, I didn’t always find Santo the most obnoxious, annoying clown to have ever breathed into a microphone. Like most everyone at one point or another, for years I found Santo amusing and harmless. The malaprops were part of the charm, and he reminded you of your goofy uncle who kept losing his glasses. Further, having grown up with an aging, senillic Harry Caray, many of us were accustomed to getting our broadcasts delivered to us through the accounts and descriptions of a man in a fog.

But it’s gotten worse. What was once a charming element to the broadcasts has digressed to an obstructive presence that reeks of overly dramatic whining and self-pitying, completely interfering with what has long been a favorite pastime of mine—listening to baseball on the radio.

Santo joined the booth in 1990, broadcasting games with that epitome of smarmy cockfaciness (cockfaciness? Just stick with me), tHom Brenneman. Back then, Santo was merely filling the role originally invented by Dick Butkus in 1985 and fulfilled by many of Butkus’ replacements on Bears broadcasts as well as Tom Boerwinkle on Bulls’ broadcasts—the former player-turned homer cheerleader in the booth.

Whenever I would catch a game on the radio in the early 90’s, I assumed Santo was drunk (like with Harry, Steve Stone’s denials be damned). Turns out Santo’s diabetes has generally precluded him from being a big drinker. So sadly, his idiocy didn’t have the crutch of alcoholism attached to it. Nevertheless, there was a certain charm to it.

As time has gone by, however, Santo has worn out his welcome. This is due to a combination of factors—Santo’s increasing age or, to put it more starkly, his impending death, his ongoing torment at being denied enshrinement in Cooperstown, and the Cubs finally contending on an annual basis, where he now wears every failure like a 200 pound cross.

But that last point is what has not only made me lose patience with Santo, but has managed to make me hate him, to the point where I find myself disregarding all of his past contributions to the team . Seriously, who the hell does this guy think he is every time he whines his way through an inning wherein the Cubs strand the bases loaded, sounding like a sheep whose had his testicle strangled? I feel bad enough as it is; I’d at least appreciate the guy in the booth keeping it together.

And where does he get off anointing himself as the face of the franchise anyway, taking every loss like he’s personally wounded? Wasn’t this guy the face of the Durocher-Era Cubs? Wasn’t he there in 1969, clicking his heels in celebration after meaningless early season victories (and make no mistake about it—it’s actions like that which have contributed—right or wrong– to the blackballing that Santo would later face)?

Speaking of 1969, now might be a good time to bring up one of the signature games that epitomized the Cubs’ downfall that season. Click here, and be sure to scroll down to extra innings, and ask yourself this–how unprofessional and bitchy would a present-day Ron Santo have been upon seeing a young Ron Santo get doubled off of first base in a tie game in extra innings while the winning run at second had rendered his run moot?

Of course, self-awareness has never been Santo’s strong suit. After the repeated failures of those Cubs teams, Santo was dealt to the White Sox for Steve Stone, and that seemed to be the end of the story. For the next 15 years, the guy who would later reinvent himself as some sort of “face of the franchise” had nothing to do with the Cubs. Then came Dallas Green and the 1984 Cubs, who did something that those losers from 1969 failed to do—close the deal by kicking the hell out of the Mets and winning the division. I was twelve years old in 1984 and hardly had any idea who Ron Santo was. Leon Durham, Keith Moreland, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe and company didn’t need mopes like Santo hanging around the team, befouling the atmosphere with the stench of failure. But suddenly, thanks to 1984, the Cubs became fashionable, and lo and behold this guy who wanted nothing to do with the franchise after he sulked away after being traded came back into the fold, hoping to capitalize on this newfound Cub popularity to bolster his chances at making the Hall.

Now I’m not going to begrudge Santo for using the broadcast booth to help his cause for enshrinement. Like I said, by every logical metric, Ron Santo should be in the Hall of Fame anyway. And going into broadcasting to improve one’s profile has been a time-honored tradition beginning with Ralph Kiner and played to perfection by Joe Morgan. Part of the reason, though, that Santo has failed to get enough support through this platform can be chalked up to the fact that he so obviously and shamelessly wants it. I’m not saying it’s right for asshole writers from the East to use this as an excuse to keep him out—it is in fact downright cruel—but maybe if the guy didn’t so readily pander for it he might have gotten more support. I mean letting his wannabe filmmaker son exploit him for the cheesiest pile of sentimental crap this side of 19th century Victorian literature is precisely the type of stuff that could just as easily turn people off.

What has happened in the last 3 years or so is a horse of a different color. Whereas he used to be a foolish, sentimental clown who couldn’t get out of his own way to Cooperstown, he now has become an annoying, whiny pain in the ass that perpetuates the worst stereotype of Cub fans as fatalistic boobs who are at the mercy of the fates. Every time an opposing team hits a pop fly that falls for a hit, Santo opines “Those things always happen to us.” (of course, you’ll never see him express gratitutde every time it happens for the Cubs). When a reliever comes in and puts a few baserunners on, Santo bleatingly wonders, “What is going ON?” And that’s not even counting the myriad times he just yells “Gah!” “Jeez!” “Ahh!” completely trampling over the dutiful description of the action by his partner—the outstanding Pat Hughes who, unfortunately, has been relegated to the role of babysitter for a grown man.

Does anybody still seriously enjoy this? As bad as the Cubs are right now, the experience of being a fan of this team is made even worse whenever I am unfortunate enough to find myself relying strictly on the radio call. Pat Hughes deserves better. The fans deserve better. Hell, Ron Santo himself deserves better, not that he’d ever become aware of it.

Please, Ron. While I agree that your omission from the Hall of Fame is egregious, I don’t understand how it justifies you in crapping all over these broadcasts. Just. Go away.

  • The Bull

    I am with Bill Madlock on this one. What the fuck is with all the Santo hate? I have read some crap in my day but this bullshit takes the first place gold medal in douchery. In the 25 years I have been a Cub fan I have never been more embarrassed by my fellow fans. Santo is a whiner? Really? I have watched us go from the best fans in baseball to a bunch of crybaby fans who dont seem to understand the game. We boo our own players? There are slumps in baseball, some longer than others. Huh, booing your own always makes for a positive atmosphere. I dont know if any of you have ever taken in a game in Cincy but we are getting close to becoming exactly like those pathetic fucks. We make the playoffs only to have the fans at the game behave like a bunch of nervous teenagers getting ready for their first HIV test. The ENTIRE national media made fun of the crowds at games 1 and 2 against the Dodgers. Again, it was disgusting.

    And now we have stopped low enough to drag our beloved Ronnie through the mud, dislike his calling of the games, I can understand that if thats your opinion, he does get down and take the loses to heart, I personally view it as how much he loves this team no matter how shitty we play. But to drag him through the mud and talk about his impending death, especially with a man that has battled diabetes is just downright trash and you sir should never ever write another piece word ever! I have an idea MikeD (I assume the D stands for Douchebag) why dont you and all the other negative Cub fans go to the South side and join all the other Cub haters that live in self pitty because of their hatred for the Cubs, cheering everytime the Cubs score comes up and the Cubs are losing. Maybe even smoke you some MORE crack while your there. Fuck you you cocksucker

  • http://hirejimessian.com Bad Kermit

    @The Bull – Congratulations. Every single one of your comments so far has been combative nonsense. If you hate everything written here, why don’t you go to BCB, where everything about the Cubs is flowers, sunshine, and stupidity? I’m sure you’d enjoy the “all is well as long as it’s called Wrigley Field!” attitude there much more than you’d like intelligent and realistic commentary on the team.

  • http://hirejimessian.com Mike D.

    Santo is a whiner? Really?

    Yes, dumbfuck. Take the smegma out of your ears and listen to a goddamn game for once.

  • Tim OMalley

    it is so frustrating to read the babblings of some junior varsity all american blast someone who has achieved a long list of accomplishments in professional sports. referencing ron’s “impending death” and calling his son a “wannabe filmmaker” shows a lack of class and character. it is easy for someone who really hasn’t achieved anything to pass judgment on those who have made something of themselves, and have accrued a legion of fans for what they have done on and off the field. santo whines? maybe he loves the cubbies so damn much it is upsetting when they lose. have you ever cared about anything in your life that much? doubtful…

    hiding behind your computer and blasting a sports icon behind a vague title to protect your identity is standard practice for a spineless coward. If you want to critique Santo, that is your right. But you should have the decency to keep it professional and not take personal shots at him. That is Professionalism 101 and I would have thought it was common sense, too. Heaven forbid you actually achieve something in your life worth writing about, and let the critics come down on you about your children or tell you to hang it up. Armchair quarterbacks, like you, should stick to what you do best… underachieving and disappointing your peers and family (but this article certainly did that).

    tmo

  • http://hirejimessian.com Mike D.

    @Tim OMalley

    I stopped reading after you wrote “cubbies”, so I can only guess what vitriol you had for me in the second paragraph, Timmy!

  • J

    It had to be said. Well done. I feel for Dave Otto. The guy is on-call to the point where he showed up midgame when Ron called in sick the other day. And while I won’t say Otto is great, I like him. He and Pat conduct a professional broadcast, and that’s refreshing. I hope he gets a shot to be at least the third man soon and Ron can just groan in the background until he can’t anymore. I used to enjoy the so-called Pat and Ron show, but I can’t argue with what’s stated above. (And leave Ernie Banks as the only “bronzed” Cub for a while, please.)

  • Uncle T-Bag

    This might be the absolute worst written article I have ever read. Based completely on your own shit opinion. Myself, my entire extended family and every single one of my friends listen to the Pat and Ron show every single game. At work, in the car and with the TV volume turned down. This has been going on for over 15 years now and I would guess I have missed a total of 30-40 games over the years.

    You babbling is unfounded and completely without merit. You do not support your case with any facts or quotes directly using only your memory of how Ron calls a game. For every 1 Ron Santo hater there are 10 Ron Santo supporters. I will also say that if you happened to talk of his “impending death” in front of my brother or I you would end up a few teeth short of a mouthful.

    The accomplishments of your (the article writer) life will not add up to even 1% of what Ron Santo has done in his life, even if you had the good fortune to end up with diabetes, 2 missing legs and a round or 2 with cancer.

    Please, please, please make this opinion known in public. Be proud of your opinion. I will wait for the day I hear someone talk like this standing next to me at a game or in a bar. Then, when not behind the safety of your mothers basement computer we will see who has the balls to speak of Santo. I promise you will end up the whiner. Really.

  • Sean B

    I have to agree with the article. I have been a lifelong Cubs fan, but Ron has gotten bad in the last couple of years. He can’t mutter through the reading of stats off of a paper. He goes into convulsions when the opponent gets a hit or a Cub player drops a ball.

    Pat sometimes seems at his wits end with Ron’s tantrums. I agree, it is getting annoying.

  • TDubbs

    @Uncle T-Bag

    I’ll fight you whenever you want. No joke.

  • RV

    @Uncle T-Bag – Where’d you play ball, pal? What have YOU accomplished that gives you the gall to respond to a highly decorated internet blogger? A blogger who has published dozens of internet weblog articles in spite of his numerous physical deformities (including the office chair from his mother’s basement that is permanently fused to his hindquarters)?

    Also, I would like to subscribe to the newsletter that contains the survey that you used as backup for your “fact” that the Ron Santo Supporter Ratio is 10:1. Any details would be appreciated.

  • http://www.gritbaseball.com ChuckDickens

    Me and my extended family and EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of my hundreds of friends all hate Santo. We all turn on the radio during every one of his broadcasts but turn down the volume just out of principle. Then we turn on the TV and blast Len and Bob. The police showed up a few times last year, but they let us go when we explained why we were blaring the TV so loudly. I’m also highly successful, own my own company, and could probably hire and fire you and every one of your friends just for my own amusement, Uncle T-Bag.

  • bethany

    this is heresy. I’d rather someone be passionate in the booth over politically correct. I’d rather have someone who actually is a Cub’s fan. When he moans and groans in the booth, he is only doing what 99% of actual fans are doing..including me! When he hoots and hollers, he is expressing exactly how I feel. Who cares if he is professional. I want someone who is authentic. Ronnie is the reason I choose to listen to 720 rather than Bob and Len and their BOOOORING and uneventful commentary.

  • http://www.petitionOnline.com/Ron4HALL santo4hof

    Remember Harry Carry at the end of his broadcasting career with Steve Stone covering up for Harry’s mistakes. That was alright cause Harry was deserving of respect. He earned it! The same goes with Ron Santo. Just look at Ron as Harry and Pat as Steve. Maybe if Ron gets elected into the Hall of Fame a massive freight train can be lifted off his chest. As Cubs fans lets help Santo get elected into the Hall!

    I have created a petition in the hopes that the veterans committee who might have any doubts about voting for Ron Santo would see the baseball player, the broadcaster and the beloved Chicago icon who deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Baseball fans please sign the petition for the ultimate Cub Ron Santo! Ron Santo fans lets unite together!

    http://www.petitionOnline.com/Ron4HALL

    http://www.santo4hof.webs.com

  • http://hirejimessian.com Bad Kermit

    @santo4hof – You’re terrible.

  • Brant Brown

    HE DROPPED THE BALL!!!

    (OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Lee Elia

    The Cubs have, overall, lousy broadcast teams. Pat Hughes is a good announcer, but not “the best in the game” as many Cubs fans think he is. Santo is, of course, the worst single TV or radio announcer/analyst in the game. The TV team stinks, too — talk about bland. Len Casper’s voice is not cut out for TV or radio, he’s as bland as plain toast, and Bob Brenly is just an ass kisser who would do a much better job if he stopped trying to be “friendly Bob”.

  • Gabby

    Ron Santo has better numbers than most of the third basemen already in the HOF. If he doesn’t belong there, they don’t.

  • Gregg

    Pat Hughes is the only good announcer doing Chicago baseball, on either the radio or TV side, on both sides of town. It’s amazing that a city like Chicago could have some of the absolute worst out there. Len and Bob are major ass kissers, Santo and his cheerleader/whining are an embarrassment and even Sox fans hate the Hawk. Ed Farmer is boring and comes across as a know it all.

  • Ali

    As a Cub fan, I’ve felt guilty about my feelings about Ron Santo. I truly believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. He has the numbers, it’s time folks, just vote him in already!!
    But please….get him out of the broadcast booth. He is not the voice of the Cubs and doesn’t speak for me (or any Cub fan that I know). The whining has to stop. The rambling has to stop. Hey Ron – Shut up already. Poor Pat Hughes has to not only do all the announcing, then he has to repair all of Ron’s blunders. I used to love listening to the game on the radio, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a game. It must have been before Ron took the booth.

  • idigapony

    I’m sure the “cubby” flag will be flying at half-mast today in your mom’s basement Mike D.

    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091214&content_id=7810854&vkey=news_chc&fext=.jsp&c_id=chc

    Three more years? And I thought Soriano’s contract was too long. I need to get a job with the cubs.

  • vito carey

    ok only one thing left to say. The moment we put Santo in the h.o.f we say that its no longer for just the greats but that we will also enshrine the semi greats.

  • Bob LaCivita

    @vito carey
    You, of course, mean greats like Phil Rizzuto, Geore Kell, Bill Mazeroski, oh I almost forgot a real one, Brooks Robinson (of course his numbers weren’t as good as Santo, but he’s Brooks Robinson).

  • Bob LaCivita

    @Ali
    I don’t get the hate – the guy’s done more for others than most people in this world, so if you don’t like his broadcast, watch TV, geez. Yeah, he does belong in the hall of fame and he’s been screwed over for years and you know it. Even Don Young doesn’t hate the guy.

  • Jed

    You have that idiot Garry Meier on WGN-AM starting a crazy petition (which never works most of the time) to erect a statue for this man. Santo is an embarrasment to this organization and he comes off as a very bitter man and is missing way too many games now to justify keeping him in the booth. He needs to get over the fact as long as he continues to make a damn fool of himself in the booth, he will NEVER gain entry into the HOF. After his behavior at a Cubs-Brewers game a few weeks ago by throwing down his headset…that incident right there should have justified in his being terminated from the booth. No excuse to be conducting yourself in that manner. Be a professional instead of a glorified cheerleader/homer and add something proper to the broadcasts. Santo needs to be fired and replaced with Dave Otto, who can at least make the games more tolerable to listen to. WGN-AM is a big mess right now as well as the Cubs but removing Santo from the booth is a good first step and then he and his son can shut the hell up and go away for good! And fire Garry Meier while they’re at it! The irrelevant hack!

  • theoldhorse

    July 25, 2010, Cubs vs Cardinals, bottom of the 10th inning, tied 3-3, men on 1st and 2nd, one out, Aramis Ramirex hits one hopper to 2nd baseman who bobbles it for an error, bases loaded. Santo commented, “Aramis hasn’t been missing many mistakes recently.” I agree that Santo adds virtually nothing to the radio broadcast but his comment unwittingly summed up the season, not only of Ramirez but the CUBS. 102 years and waiting.

  • http://www.liberallyconservative.com/ Don Bistrow

    The color commentator isn’t supposed to be Shakespeare.

    I sat through 1969, in Wrigley Field, to the tune of 63 games as a kid who could hop on the train with friends and go to THE Ballpark.

    Before running into this ridiculous post I was telling someone how players today always need a day off. Bunk! If the 1969 Cubs, including Ron Santo with diabetes, got a few days off they would have made it to the World Series promised land. (IMHO)

    Day baseball, a very hot summer, switching to night games on the road and no game days off. By August the Cub players, especially catcher Randy Hundley, were dragging themselves to the plate and onto the field.

    They were physically beaten. To take time to write such a negative piece about Santo and deny his numbers is to demonstrate first-class ignorance. Numbers don’t lie and this movie has been played over and over again.

    Ron #10 Santo deserves to be in baseball’s Hall of Fame based on numbers, not personality, not his radio announcing, not because of his son’s movie but only because he produced as an individual ballplayer the way much lessor players in the HOF did not.

    On a team sport why should making the HOF depend on championships when your statistics put you with the top at your position and amongst other players at other positions?

    It’s about individual accomplishments, not championships, not how well you do in the radio booth.

    So Mike D. take your pathetic bitching about Ron Santo and jump off the Sears Tower or drown yourself far out into Lake Michigan.

    If your so smart why can’t you find the dial on the radio to turn it off?

  • George s

    @Uncle T-Bag – amen brother.

  • ronnie rocks

    Ron Santo was fun. Who cares if the broadcasts weren’t “professional?” I’ve listened to so-called “professional” broadcasts before-they’re boring compared to the Cubs games. God bless you, Ronnie, RIP. If you all love the boring stagnant broadcasts of other baseball team, flip over to the Score and check out the Sox-what a snooze! Ronnie made the Cubs broadcasts fun and I, for one, will greatly miss him.

  • Roddie

    Mike-
    You got your wish. Hope you’re happy now, you asshole.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Well, for those of you who didn’t care for Ron, he’s passed now. And for those of us who loved him- for whatever reasons- we get to mourn his passing and remember all the great memories we had with him.

    I suppose I can see how some people didn’t like Ron’s style of broadcasting. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, though! When WGN played clips during a day-long tribute, I recognized every single one of them and could transport myself back to when I first heard it and remember what I was doing.

    The “hairpiece” conversation? Loved it! Or when he was yelling at fans to “sit down, please!” He was an emotional guy, but that’s why I loved him. I am an emotional Cub fan, and I never felt like I missed anything by having Ron’s emotional outbursts pouring out my speakers.

    Baseball is more than just a sport; more than just a calculated game involving athletes and rules and skills. Sports are a mode of human expression, and Ron was a model of living a life dedicated to helping others and following your passion.

    Obstacles? You bet- and more than most, too. Charity? Did you know he has helped raise over 40 million dollars for diabetes research? He was close to his family, close to his friends, and I haven’t even gotten into his stellar career as a player.

    I respect a person’s right to have an opinion on things, and even to use their own opinions and attitudes to shape an article. I’m likely to do the same myself! I won’t critique or harass you for your article- which I disagree with- but I would like to mention just one thing that I think bears correcting.

    Pat Hughes, as you said, is an absolutely marvelous broadcaster. In fact, he’s my favorite (I made a Cubs jersey with “Hughes” on the back and ‘720’ for the number, since he never gets enough credit for his work!).

    But to call Pat a “babysitter” for Ron is to completely misunderstand the nature of the Pat/Ron relationship. Pat was never disparaging, never disrespectful, and never once in all their years together did he show anything that could be considered scornful or pitying.

    Yes, this is partly because Pat is a professional. But mostly- and this is the point I want to make- Pat had a profound respect and admiration for Ron. He truly valued Ron’s contributions to the booth, and his affection and appreciation for Ron’s work were evident in every broadcast they did together.

    The idea that Pat deserved better or that Ron was somehow a burden to him is profoundly mistaken. The camaraderie, the fun, and the respect that these men had for each other in the booth was an inspiration to all of us. Playing on each others strengths and personality, they created one of the most entertaining and enjoyable broadcast experiences in history.

    Ron leaves a void larger than any person could hope to fill. Cub fans everywhere will have to contend with a future devoid of any of the gaffes and outbursts that you mentioned in this article.

    While there are those out there- like yourself- who I’m sure respect Ron and mourn his passing but aren’t sorry to see him out of the booth, I know that there is no price I wouldn’t pay next season and all the seasons after to hear just one more “Aww geez!” or “What’s going ON!?” from one of my personal heroes, Ron Santo.

  • Caleb’s Dad

    My son’s comment sums it up. He is articulate and eloquent. I’m not. You’re a douchebag.