The year 2011 was an empty season for the Cubs. While it is true that the 2007-09 stretch may have made the current crop of Cubs fans relatively spoiled, something other than their sloppy play and poor record seemed to be missing. Apathy set in—the day games, the ivy, Starlin Castro's dynamic play, the return of fan favorite Kerry Wood—all of these seemed to fade without excitement. Reflecting upon last summer, I felt that something was wrong, but I could not make that feeling clear. Suddenly, it hit me. Ron Santo is gone.
Ron Santo fought through Type 1 diabetes (unheard of at the time) to become one of the greatest third basemen of all time. His play on the field was consistently brilliant. He received nine all-star nominations and five gold gloves. But Ron Santo is not just defined by his play on the field. He continued to add to his legend for years after his retirement. He became a part of Cubs lore, a fixture at Wrigley Field and a favorite on the radio. And, as more details about his battle with diabetes surfaced, he became an inspiration to everyone battling the serious illness.
Part of baseball, or any sport, is the camaraderie. Few would sit in an empty ballpark and watch silent players perform. The living, breathing aspects that surround the game are what draw us in. We are fans and friends; we pull for our guys. For legions of Cubs fans, Ron Santo was both one of our heroes and one of our friends. Listening to a game called by Pat Hughes and Ron Santo was more than receiving information about the events on field. With Ron Santo, even a loss halfway through a mediocre season meant something. Ron's familiar groan, "Oh no," and his shouts of "Yes Sir!" were not as simple as they look on paper. They contained years of suffering, of joy and perhaps most of all, triumph. No, Ron never saw the Cubs win it all, and never realized his dream of being elected into the Hall of Fame. But those facts are mere trifles compared to his strength, vitality and love for baseball. We are still in the year of his passing. How could we not feel let down? And perhaps we always will, in some way. But I think this apathy will pass. It is a new season. Theo Epstein is at the helm. People are already starting to get excited again. We all know Ron would be.