The best Ron Santo stories


The best Ron Santo stories

Five years ago, if the Cubs were looking for one person to be the official president of the team's fan club, Ron Santo would have been an obvious choice.

He spent more than two decades as a color commentator on WGN Radio for the Cubs and 14 years prior to that as arguably the best third baseman in franchise history.

During that time, Santo was one of the more entertaining personalities, always wearing his emotions on his sleeve -- even on air -- which has led to some hilarious stories.

As the late Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, we caught up with some of his former teammates, colleagues and fans as they relayed some of their favorite Santo stories:

Vicki Santo -- widow

"In 2001, Ron lost a leg, amputated because of complications with diabetes. It had been a terrible fight. Ten operations in 10 months. The next year, he had a sore on the other foot and was faced with a decision. After weighing the odds of a full recovery and no recurrence, he decided to go with a second amputation.

"As the nurse was wheeling him into the operating room, I heard him tell the doctor that the timing was perfect for this operation because he could be back for Opening Day. That's true. Only Ron. That's what was on his mind -- getting ready to broadcast Cubs baseball on Opening Day."
Pat Hughes -- broadcast partner

Hughes worked alongside Santo for 15 years in the booth and has countless stories at his disposal.

--One such story -- maybe the best of the bunch -- was when Brant Brown dropped a fly ball in a crucial game up in Milwaukee. As many Cubs fans know, Ron Santo screamed "OH NOOO!!" on air after Brown's misplay.

As Hughes tells it, after the game, Santo couldn't let it go, saying over and over again, "how does he drop the ball in that situation?!"

At one point, then-Cubs manager Jim Riggleman came over to Santo, how was still distraught, put his arm around the broadcaster and ensured him the Cubs would get 'em again the next day.

"That may have been the first time in American sports history that a manager consoled a broadcaster after a loss," Hughes said.

--In 2003, the Cubs retired Santo's No. 10 jersey with an emotional ceremony at Wrigley Field. Illinois declared that day the official "Ron Santo Day" in the state and gave Santo a proclamation stating that fact.

Early on in the booth, Hughes recalled how Santo was eating scrambled eggs and as the Cubs got a big hit, he spilled eggs on the proclamation. A little later, the Cubs scored again and Santo spilled his coffee on the proclamation. He also almost used it as a napkin, and told Hughes later that he had no idea what happened to that important document.

--Also, in 2003, Hughes recalls maybe the most famous of Santo's stories.

The Cubs were in New York to face the Mets, a bitter rival of Santo's from back in his playing days. Santo was famous for wearing a hairpiece and since it was early April, the weather was still chilly, so there was a space-heater in the booth.

As Santo was standing for the National Anthem, Hughes heard a little sizzling and smelled burning only to look over and see Santo's hairpiece on fire with smoke billowing out from the top of his head.

"So I did what any good partner would do," Hughes recounts. "I tossed a cup of water on his head."

--At the Fan Fest on Saturday in Cooperstown, Hughes told the story of his first broadcast with Santo in spring training down in Arizona. He and Santo talked the night before about how nervous Hughes was.

After Hughes made it through the first half inning without a hitch, Santo was ecstatic.

"Ron stands up -- he was sitting right next to me in the booth -- and he has this look of absolute joy on his face. The same look that he must have had when one of his teammates made a diving catch or when Ernie Banks hit a game-winning three-run homer.

"It's that combination of a senior citizen and a happy 10-year-old kid. He had this look on his face and he shakes my hand saying 'Great job! Great job!' and I'm thinking 'this is after only one half-inning of Cactus League baseball. Opening Day is still over a month away.'

"But he had this enthusiasm about him. He just loved everything about the Cubs and Wrigley Field and Cubs fans."

Glenn Beckert -- Santo's teammate and roomate for nine years

Beckert has some of the best stories from Santo's playing days, including the time when Santo was receiving death threats from angry baseball fans. As the two men were going to sleep in a hotel room one night, Beckert put a sign up in the room saying "Santo sleeps here" and another one above his own bed with "Beckert sleeps here" written on it.

"I wanted to make sure they knew which bed was his and which bed was mine," Beckert joked.

--"One day, we're playing Philadelphia and Ronnie hits a three-run homer to put us ahead," Beckert recounts. "And the fans stand up in Philadelphia and start applauding. And he comes up to me and says 'Rooms, I never had a crowd on the road stand and applaud like that.' I said 'Rooms, unfortunately, it's not for you. Look at the scoreboard -- man just stepped on the moon.'"

--Beckert also recalls the story when he walked in on Santo -- a diabetic who hid his disease from his teammates during his playing career -- shooting up with insulin in the bathroom.

Beckert was struggling at the plate at the time and Santo was hitting well over .300, so like a good teammate, Beckert said "Rooms, whatever that is, gimme some of that."
Cubs fans

We caught up with several Cubs fans at the Fan Fest in Cooperstown this weekend. Here are some of their favorite memories:

--David Kilstein: The Brant Brown call in '98.

--Raymond Duncan: The Brant Brown call in '98.

--David Carboni: First Cubs game with his father seeing Santo play at the Polo Grounds.

--Phil Ronald Santos (yes, that's his actual name): Hearing Santos' reaction when Kerry Wood got the save to clinch the 2008 division title.

--Fred Jolly: Seeing Santo run in to celebrate with Ken Holtzman after the pitcher's no-hitter.

--Raymond Duncan III: Santo's calls and passion on the air.

--Bonnie McLean: Watching Santo click his heels together after a Cubs win.
What is your favorite Ron Santo story? Share with us in the comment section below, and we'll update this post with each of your favorite memories.

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Brandon Saad's breakout game

After turning in one of his best efforts of the season on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks rewarded Saad with a promotion to the top-six again. And he took advantage of that opportunity.

In the first period alone, Saad recorded four shots on goal, scored his first of the season on the power play, drew a penalty and had a takeaway in 7:42 of ice time, which led all forwards. He finished with nine shot attempts (a season-high seven on goal) and 18:56 of ice time.

On his power-play goal, Saad battled for position in front of the net, called for the puck and scored on his second effort. He did all the right things and got rewarded, including on the empty-netter that sealed the victory.

"I've had some chances, especially as of late," Saad said. "But it's definitely nice for them to get in and get a win on top of that."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "He was excellent tonight. ... I thought he had great speed all over the ice, had the puck way more. We’re happy for him. Big factor in the win."

2. Erik Gustafsson's slap-pass becoming a thing

For the second time this season, Gustafsson contributed to a game-winning goal that involved a fake shot and slap-pass from the point. Patrick Kane was the recipient of the cross-ice pass and buried home the one-timer from the right faceoff circle

"I can’t score by myself, so it’s better to pass it," Gustafsson joked. "No, I know Kaner is out there. He’s always getting open when someone else has the puck so it’s easy to find him and there was one guy in front of me so I wanted to pass it."

3. Blackhawks cut down on high-danger chances

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks allowed 25 high-danger chances at even strength. It put them at the very bottom of the league for most on average per game, ironically falling below Anaheim.

Through two periods on Tuesday, the Blackhawks allowed zero and only five at 5-on-5 for the entire game. Certainly a 180 from two nights ago, and an area they will continue to build upon.

"We just took away those quality chances," said Corey Crawford, who made 24 saves and picked up his first win at home since Dec. 17, 2017. "I don't think they really had too many where they had time in front of the net to really think about where they wanted to shoot and our guys were on the right away in the middle of the ice and that'll give you a great chance to win a hockey game."

4. Special teams battle

There were a total of 20 penalty minutes (10 for Anaheim, 10 for Chicago), which meant lots of power play opportunities and not as much even-strength time.

The Blackhawks had four of them in the first period, and converted on the second try when Saad scored his first of the season. The penalty killed went 4-for-4, allowing a combined eight combined shots on goal but limiting the quality chances.

Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox


Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox

When Chris Sale was with the White Sox, fans dreamed of seeing him headline a postseason playoff rotation.

That never materialized in his time with the White Sox, but Sale is headlining a World Series rotation for the Red Sox. The 29-year-old pitched Game 1 for the Red Sox against the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Sale didn't last long, making it into the fifth and getting pulled before recording an out. In those 4+ innings, Sale gave up three runs while striking out seven.

One of the key plays of the game featured Manny Machado getting an RBI single against Sale in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2. Machado later had an RBI groundout to again tie the game in the fifth before Boston regained the lead in the bottom half of that inning.

Was that a meeting of the White Sox past (Sale) against the White Sox future (Machado)? Machado will be a highly sought after free agent this winter and the White Sox have been connected to the former Orioles infielder since last offseason.

Game 1 featured a stellar pitching matchup of Sale against Clayton Kershaw, but it didn't materialize as it looked on paper. Sale labored while Kershaw gave up five runs in 4+ innings.

This postseason hasn't been a standout one for Sale. The lefty has a 4.40 ERA in 16 1/3 innings over four appearances (three starts and a relief appearance).

The longer Chris Sale is with the Red Sox, the less this will feel relevant to the White Sox, but it is still something to see the longtime White Sox ace on the mound starting a World Series opener.