Ron Santo's Broadcasting Style Epitomizes the Cubs as Lovable Losers

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IApril 30, 2009

It was William Faulkner who once wrote “Memory believes before knowing remembers.”

It is with this thought in mind that I attempt to tackle an unpopular subject. That is, what an insult to the airwaves Chicago Cubs announcer Ron Santo continues to be.

Look, he may be a local icon, but, to me, he is an all-out assault on the senses.

Now, I do feel sorry for the man. His well-chronicled battles with the complications from diabetes may make Santo a sympathetic figure, but forgive me for preferring knowledgeable radio.

Santo’s color work on WGN radio is so comically bad that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Either way, it gets rather irritating—especially when things aren’t going so well for the Cubbies.

A thousand-watt blowtorch like WGN certainly could afford to hire a color man who can actually articulate a thought without making Eugen Bleuler cringe.

It seems that, as Cubs fans, our memories of both the ballplayer and the struggling man want us to overlook Santo’s limitations in the radio booth, and accept him for what he is.

Meanwhile, real color men such as Steve Stone, Bob Brenly, and Dave Campbell make me long for some intelligent baseball during the Cubs radio broadcasts.

Working with Santo certainly has made his partner, Pat Hughes, have to step up his game to cover for the all-too-frequent lapses in the booth.

Hughes, who’s folksy style could be heard serving up comedy softballs to broadcast legend Bob Uecker in his previous work with the Milwaukee Brewers, often has to be both play-by-play and color man for the Cubs.

Yes, Santo is a Cubs legend, but on the radio, he's simply legendarily awful.

Hey, I like the way he wears his heart on his sleeve, and there is no denying he is as loyal to the Cubs as anyone ever has been.

In fact, if you were to cut him, I’m sure that Santo would bleed Cubbie blue.

But that’s not the point. When you listen to Ron Santo, you’re not getting an analyst, you’re getting a fan. This may be fine if it’s your buddy sitting on the couch next to you sharing a beer.

This is supposed to be a professional broadcast. I’m the last guy to complain about humor; I often use it in my writing (the results of which are subject to debate by my readers).

But Santo isn’t inherently funny; the joke is on him and he doesn’t even realize it.

The laughter doesn’t emulate from his wit; it comes from the stupidity of the things he often says.

Santo needs to have play-by-play man Pat Hughes tell him what happened after it happens. He can’t pronounce names. He does not offer lucid responses to fan e-mail questions of him.

The broadcasts often devolve into a series of bad jokes, puns, and good-natured ribbing about Pat's tightwad nature and Ron's personal idiosyncrasies, of which there are many.

In 2002, Santo’s hairpiece actually caught fire during a broadcast.

One night in Milwaukee, Santo saw an opposing pitcher and was reminded of another player. For 10 bewildering, frustrating minutes, he kept trying to think of the name, getting more maddened by each agonizing minute. Finally, he realized who it was the pitcher reminded him. It was...the pitcher himself! Pat Hughes politely chimed in, "Proving once again, folks, that we do this live."

As FireRonSanto.com points out, “As a broadcaster, plausible arguments could be made Ron Santo is the worst analyst—in any sport—in Chicago history. He grunts and groans and twists and turns in a most uncomfortable manner for Cubs radio listeners. He adds no insight, only pom pons.”

As the voice of the Cubs, he unwittingly epitomizes the embarrassing notion of the team as “lovable losers,” something I absolutely abhor.

“I think I’ve personally become more popular as a broadcaster because I’m like they are,” Santo said of Cubs fans.

Well, that may be the problem, Ronny.  You’re too much like us and we’re not broadcasters. 

This town already has one incoherent homer, Hawk Harrelson, and certainly doesn’t need another.

"Oh, nooooooooooooooo!!”, come to think of it.


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