The Cubs received new t-shirts on Monday designed by catcher Koyie Hill. The shirt says “PASS10N” on the front and on the sleeve it says, “Play like a 10.” The shirt commemorates Ron Santo and his passion for the game. He died in December at the age of 70.
Play like a 10 indeed. This is the year, Ron.
Yes, many of us still listen to the game on AM radio. And some day, when I’m sitting on my front porch yelling at the young whippersnappers to get off of my lawn, I hope to still be listening to Cubs games. With all apologies to the excellent Cubs television broadcasters, there’s just something about listening to play by play on the radio to me. I frequently listen to the radio while the television is muted. Perhaps its the numerous day games the Cubs play that forced me to develop a habit of listening to the Cubs wherever I might be, but I just love to hear baseball described by a great play by play announcer. And Pat Hughes is as good as they come.
This weekend marks the beginning of a new era of Cubs WGN-720 radio broadcasts. The heart and soul of the Chicago Cubs, the irreplaceable Ron Santo, is no longer with us.
Rather than replacing Santo, a new chapter will be written, by a Cubs icon from the fading memories of the summers of my youth, Keith Moreland.
Welcome back to Wrigley, Keith Moreland.
Baseball is unique in the level of appreciation players and fans have of its history. No other sport bridges the chasms between generations quite as seamlessly as baseball. The game changes; we debate dead balls and juiced biceps, thirty game winners and superstar closers, part-time jobs in the offseason and free agent auctions. Yet through all of the change, we appreciate the game of the past, even while anticipating the game of the future.
My baseball life begins, as one might expect, with my father. My parents watched me fail spectacularly at T-ball games, and enjoy every single second of it. Playing the game was important, but my love of baseball began with my father, a Cubs fan from a golden era of Cubs players. Not a winning era of course, but a special time nonetheless. Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ken Holtzman, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger and most importantly to my father, the late Ron Santo. My father wasn’t one to tell stories of the Cubs heroes of his childhood, and he was never one to force his own interests on his children – I have three siblings who could not possibly be less interested in sports. He simply watched, and encouraged my budding love for a game. He took us to Wrigley and Comiskey, and watched Cubs games on WGN with me – taught me to score, answered my questions, watched as I lived and died with every Cubs result. I envied his ability to uh loudly and passionately root for the Cubs (and against the opposing team… and quite frequently the umpires) and then simply sigh after a defeat and return to the pressing matters of life.
There would prove to be something symbolic about a Cubs fan from the 1960’s, a survivor of 1969, passing his love of the Cubs to a new generation… in the Summer of 1984. The irony was lost on me for the better part of another decade. The game had changed since my father’s childhood, and I would not have the opportunity to root for the same group of players in Cubs uniforms for most of their careers. Of course, I didn’t understand that quite yet. Regardless, the Summer of 1984 introduced me to my own generation of Cub idols. Smith, Matthews, Durham, Cey, Dernier, Moreland, Davis, Bowa, Sanderson, Eckersly, Reuschel, Trout, and Ruthven. The midsummer gunslinger from Cleveland, Rick Sutcliffe (still one of the best midseason trades ever). And my personal Ron Santo… Ryne Sandberg.
While the Cubs of my childhood were ultimately no more successful than my father’s Cubs, I was hooked. I watch and participate in other sports, particularly Hockey, but I live Baseball.
In December of 2010, Ron Santo passed away. His family lost a loving father and husband. My father lost a piece of his childhood. I lost a beloved announcer, and the Cubs lost their heart and soul. You will be missed Ronny, and never forgotten. Rest in Peace.
But the Show must go on. And nobody would demand that more than Ron Santo. This is baseball. The games and players change, but the past is not forgotten.
On WGN-720 radio, the torch has been passed from my father’s youth to an idol of my own youth, Keith Moreland. This time, I am old enough to understand and appreciate the bridging of the generational chasm. Moreland is not replacing Santo in the booth. He will write his own chapter of the Chicago Cubs story. The game changes, but the past is not forgotten.
THIS is the year, Ronny.