â€œThis Old Cubâ€™sâ€ candid take on the 2008 baseball season
By Paul M. Banks
WGN radio broadcaster Ron Santo is a legendary figure within the Chicago Cubs organization. His number #10 was the third number retired by the Cubs, honoring a stellar Cubs career that included nine All-Star appearances and five Gold Gloves. The current Chicago Cubs color analyst held a press conference right before the Cubsâ€™ official opening ofÂ Little Cubs Field, a little league park built to replicate Wrigley Field in Freeport, IL. In â€œPretzel City,â€ about 30 miles west of Rockford, Santo was the guest of honor on June 14th. The current Cubs color analyst is known for many things outside of his playing career, including his unabashed on-air cheerleading and the success he has had in his personal struggle with diabetes during his life.Â When he was diagnosed at age 18, doctors gave him a life expectancy of 25 years. The current 68 year old Santo was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation â€œPerson of the Yearâ€ in 2002. Two years ago, Santo, the subject of â€œThis Old Cub,â€ a theatre released documentary film created by his son Jeff, came within five votes of the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He is eligible again in 2009.
When given the chance to speak with a man whose blood is figuratively Cubbie blue, I got straight to the point and asked him who poses the biggest threat to the Cubs in the National League Central division…
RS: I think itâ€™s going to be the Cardinals. I didnâ€™t think so heading into the season, but you look and what weâ€™ve done being 19 games over .500, and they are just three and half games behind. Theyâ€™re playing real good baseball, so normally weâ€™d be running away with it if it werenâ€™t for the Cardinals.
I followed up by inquiring why so many teams (not just the Cubs) are dominating at home, but at the same time struggling on the road. Especially considering that the Cubs are a national team with a national followingâ€¦
RS: Every where we go, there are Cub fans, and itâ€™s amazing. One thing Iâ€™ve learned being in Chicago since I was eight years old is that Cub fans never lose their allegiance, no matter where they move. But youâ€™re always thinking that if you can play .500 on the road and do real well at home, thatâ€™s a winning year. You donâ€™t expect to do better than .500 on the road. You just donâ€™t.
His thoughts on whether the Cubs need to make a big acquisition before the trading deadlineâ€¦
RS: Lou Piniella is one of the best managers Iâ€™ve ever been around; heâ€™s very good at using his 25 man roster and putting them in positions where they can succeed. There is so much on this team, and Carlos Marmol has been unhittable. And the reason Lou has Marmol as a set-up man is because of the fact that you gotta have somebody to put in to stop the bleeding when youâ€™re ahead, who can go and give your closer a chance to win that game. Geovany Soto is one of the best hitting catchers in the NL. I think heâ€™s about 400,000 votes ahead of the next closest catcher for the All-Star game. This team is going to have quite a few players on the All-Star team. Probably by July, if thereâ€™s anything we need, itâ€™s the same thing every team is looking for which is another starting pitcher.
On instant replayâ€¦
RS: I donâ€™t think they need it. These umpires are human, they make mistakes. When you think about all the balls and strikes that they call, sure theyâ€™re going to make a mistake here and there. And I donâ€™t think this is going to be a big help.
On why there have been so many broken bats in the Major Leagues recentlyâ€¦
RS: When I played, we only had two bat companies: Adirondack and Louisville Slugger; but today itâ€™s all about supply and demand, and theyâ€™re just getting bad wood. Theyâ€™re not getting the good wood. And they have to do something about it soon or else someoneâ€™s going to get hurt seriously;Â and Iâ€™m speaking mainly about the fans because the big part of the barrel gets sharp and ends up going into the stands.Â Â
On the toughest pitcher he faced during his playing daysâ€¦
RS: Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, you can just keep going down the line. All tough.
Later, he gave a speech at Little Cubs field and took Q & A from the fans. The best of which regarding his unapologetic Cubs cheerleading on the airâ€¦
RS: When I started at WGN, they just told me to be yourself, you know, and Iâ€™m a Cub fan and thatâ€™s the way it is.
Another fan asked him if he could give everybody an AWWW!!!!! GEEESSHHHH!!!! on cueâ€¦
RS: I canâ€™t do it unless Iâ€™m watching a ballgameFollow paulmbanks