How can someone have heart problems, diabetes, several amputations, bladder cancer, and worse, be a lifelong Cubs fan, and still be the cheeriest person you've ever met? That was Ron Santo, and that was his gift. Ron passed away on Thursday. He was 70. The man who lived under the darkest cloud provided the most sunshine for everyone else.
Older readers remember Santo as a Hall of Fame-worthy Cubs' third baseman. The fact that he's not in the Hall of Fame is yet another injustice he endured with dignity and good cheer.
But more people know him as the Chicago Cubs radio analyst on WGN along with superb partner, Pat Hughes. Ron's analysis was unique to say the least. Some examples:
Ron: "Ohhhhh no!!!!!"
Ron: "Yeah, baby... yeah baby... YEAH!!!!"
He broke down the game with his heart, as well as his eyes. And the genuine passion he had for the game and the team and the fans made his broadcasts not just informative but special.
He mangled the language but so what? I was listening a couple of months ago and he described a certain catcher as having a "mind like a cannon". The point is, you knew what he meant. Most of the time.
His banter with partner Pat was pure Abbott & Costello. And then every so often he would make an observation and you'd go, "Whoa! I've been following baseball my whole life and I didn't know that".
He was always great fun to talk to. And our discussions always got around to his son Jeff, who is a filmmaker. Ron would go on and on about his son, so proud. I remember thinking -- this is how every kid wishes his father would think of him.
His number 10 has been retired. Cub fans will see that at Wrigley Field and be reminded of Ron. They'll also be reminded of Ron whenever they hear someone laugh, or see someone be kind to someone else.
Ron Santo has died. But he has lived and died with the Cubs his whole life. So dying is nothing new for him. And like all Cub fans know, there's always a "next year". Happy New Year, Ron.
Follow Ken Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KenLevine