|Listening to Baseball on the radio -|
Damn, 720 WGN has a good signal!
I love listening to Baseball on the radio.
This is one of the central truths of my love for Baseball. It is presented in its most classic form on the radio. I grew up listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio, the sonorous voice of Ernie Harwell crackling across my AM band, hand-sized transistor late into the night.
I have already blogged about my beloved Detroit Tigers seven times (see categories index) and I am not done yet with my Tigers shirts. More to come.
|Wearing my "dressy" Cubs shirt and|
my 1914 Vintage "Cubby" hat
As a kid who loved Baseball, it should be no surprise that I collected Baseball cards. In fact, I did not like bubble gum, and I was a bit annoyed at how the gum would discolor (if not melt and stick to) one card, often the card that I most wanted to collect.
As a lover and collector of Baseball cards, I bought many of my packs on the summer vacations of my youth in Traverse City at a little liquor store at the top of a hill between Traverse and Long Lake.
The store is still there.
I wrote about this and other nostalgic childhood activities in T-Shirt #85: Up North.
As a boy loving Baseball, it seemed a travesty to love only one team when there were so many to choose from. My fandom really started to kick in at the age of eight (1970) when Major League Baseball fielded twenty-four teams. I loved the Detroit Tigers, and I kept hoping they would win another World Series since I was not a huge Baseball fan and much younger (six years old) when they won in 1968, though I had read all about the games and the team was still intact in many ways in 1970.
But I wanted another favorite team. The next closest city to Kalamazoo (other than Detroit) is Chicago.
I could not like the Chicago White Sox as they were division rivals to the Tigers. So I decided to like the Chicago Cubs. After all, they had a cool name. They were the young team, the babies, the Cubs to the football Bears, which I thought was cute. I liked the team colors (red, white, and blue), and they had many cool players as I saw in many of my 1970 season Baseball cards, such as Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Milt Pappas, Joe Pepitone, and guys with neat names who I had many Baseball cards for but who did not play much, like Boots Day and Roe Skidmore.
I may not be the Number One Cubs fan ever, but I am going to write about one.
Santo was dynamite. For sure, he would be elected to the Hall of Fame when he first appeared on the ballot after his 1974 retirement. But then, nothing. By the time, Santo was eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot (1980), I was filled with teenaged hormones and had quite forgotten how much I loved Baseball. I had moved on to performing magic, doing theater, playing role playing games, and hanging out with friends, none of whom liked sports. And then came college and girls. Since things like Baseball were the province of the "popular" kids, I eschewed all things sports from about 1976-1984, when the winning seasons of both the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs promised a possible World Series between my two favorite clubs, a legacy that was narrowly missed when the San Diego Padres edged the Cubs in the five-game NLCS three games to two, taking the decisive Game Five 6-3 with Cubs ace Rick Sutcliffe taking the heart-breaking loss.
By 1984, when I re-discovered my love for the Chicago Cubs, I also discovered the joys of cable television and the strong signal of WGN Radio that I could pick up much better in Kalamazoo than in Richland. And soon, I discovered that I did not always have to tune into WGN from Chicago because a local radio station would broadcast the Cubs games, such as WQSN 1360 AM. Though some days, especially in Richland, the WGN signal was stronger than the local broadcast's signal.
After graduating from college, cable television was finally available in my "rural" area of Richland, and I began to watch many Chicago Cubs games that were televised on WGN television. I was excited about a new rookie who joined the team with Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and Rick Sutcliffe who debuted in 1988: Mark Grace. Others soon followed, such as Shawon Dunston, Greg Maddux, and Jerome Walton. Eventually, the team featured one of its most dynamic players: Sammy Sosa.
I would listen in the car throughout the state of Michigan as WGN's signal is so strong that it covers most of Michigan. And while taking my own vacations in Traverse City as an adult, I would often go out to my car, which could pick up the WGN radio signal easily from its parking spot on the Old Mission Peninsula.
It became clear to me that Ron Santo was cheated out of his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Much to Ron's chagrin, Pat Hughes would openly and vocally tout Ron's merits for the Hall of Fame based on his excellence as a player. (I also think Ron deserves election as a broadcaster.)
In the mid-1990s, I discovered Bill James and the greater world of statistical analysis in Baseball beyond looking at Batting Average and Earned Run Average. Bill James ranks Santo sixth on the the all-time greatest third basemen in history with only Home Run Baker, Wade Boggs, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, and Mike Schmidt ahead of him. Bill James writes an excellent entry in his Historical Baseball Abstract about Santo's merits for the Hall of Fame. It's quite a funny section as he leads it off with a letter from a disgruntled TV viewer who heard James advocate for Santo's candidacy and claim that there are fewer third baseman in the Hall than players at any other position. The viewer took this the wrong way thinking we should elect all these second-rate players to bring up the number of third sackers. Rather, James had meant that Santo should be elected because, among the small number of third basemen in the Hall, he was a better player than many of them. James specifically names George Kell (a Detroit Tiger) who he ranked 30th all time among third basemen and Fred Lindstrom, who he ranked 43rd, who are both in the Hall of Fame, and Santo is not.
I enjoyed listening to Ron Santo's brilliant comedy as a radio host, his vast knowledge of Baseball, and his absolute, unequivocal love of all things Chicago Cub for 20 years, until Diabetes finally caught up with him, and he died in 2010 at the age of 70. Ron Santo had lost both of his lower legs, which were amputated below the knee, one in 2001 and the other in 2002, due to his Diabetes. And by the end, he also struggled with Bladder Cancer.
Santo should have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his lifetime. Santo's Hall of Fame election came in 2011 for the Class of 2012. He received 15 of a possible 16 votes by the Golden Era Committee, which formed in 2011, and elected Santo as its first act. The Golden Era Committee features such players as Al Kaline, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson (7th on James' list right after Santo), and Billy Williams, who made an impassioned plea for Santo's induction.
Another accolade described here also should have happened in his lifetime, but he was taken too soon: "On Wednesday, August 10, 2011, Ron Santo was memorialized and "immortalized" at Wrigley Field with the presentation of a statue in his likeness. The statue is a portrayal of a young Ron Santo playing defense at third base, leaning to his right while throwing a ball" ("Ron Santo," Wikipedia, 2013).
I still listen to Pat Hughes and his new partner Keith Moreland, who are quite good, but nowhere near as wonderful as Pat and Ron with all their running jokes as well as Ron's elation when the Cubs did something exciting and his abject despondency or even anger when things did not go the Cubs' way.
SOME GOOD LINKS
RON SANTO BASEBALL ALMANAC
RON SANTO - BASEBALL REFERENCE
RON SANTO WIKI
RON SANTO DIES
PAT HUGHES' EULOGY FOR RON SANTO
This is what I am talking about in the videos that follow... great Pat and Ron stuff. There's several if you search on You Tube. Here's three. The first is a good assortment of clips (five minutes). The second is a single hilarious episode (short - 2:34), and the last is a good short memory (41 seconds).
Favorite Ron Santo Moment