Why not rename Balbo Drive to 'Santo' Street?

December 3, 2010

The passing of Ron Santo has Chicagoans thinking of fond memories the popular personality gave them. So why not honor his life by renaming a street? Not honorary, but a full-fledged rename? This is not my idea. It's the idea of Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn, who in 2008 wrote about how there were more deserving Italian-American Chicagoans than Italo Balbo. He was suggesting a more suitable replacement for the Italian general, whose name replaced 7th Street 77 years ago. Zorn did a poll and Ron Santo was the readers' choice. We remembered that movement and I G-chatted up Mr. Zorn today to ask if he still thought Ron Santo would be a good name for that street: 

Justin: So in 2008 you did a poll about renaming Balbo street. Why?

Eric It's a major street in Chicago curiously named for a leader of the fascist thugs who brought Benito Mussolini to power. I thought Italian Americans could do better.

Justin: And by better, you mean Ron Santo?

Eric Santo was one choice. Enrico Fermi was another popular suggestion. The late Cardinal Bernardin. Florence Scala. There are a lot of famous Italian Americans who weren't on the side of the Nazis in WWII
Justin Your readers voted overwhelmingly for Santo, 73 percent!
Eric Ron is -- or was, rest his soul -- pure Chicago (though he grew up in Seattle) -- a man of great talent, courage and passion who beat on against the twin currents of disappointment and disease.
Justin How possible is it to rename a street? Do we have to get IDOT involved in this chat? And we aren't talking about that "honorary" bullsh*t. Full rename.
Eric I'd like to get rid of ALL those honorary street names (even Justin Kaufmann Way) but don't get me started. No, it's a city function, renaming streets.
Justin Do you think the city or the Italian-American community would be down with this thought? You proposed it when Mr. Santo was alive in 2007. Now that he has passed...
Eric The Italian American community is strangely loyal to Balbo (who, to his credit, was a notable aviator when he wasn't doing his fascist thuggery). They've resisted every effort to re-name East Balbo Drive over the years. I'm not the first to propose it.
Justin But you are the first to propose renaming it Ron Santo Way. Balbo is only like, what, 3 blocks? Let's just get a team together, go to the novelty shop and get a couple green and white street signs made and go rogue. I would just need an invesment of like $2k. And I'll have that street renamed by the end of the weekend.
Eric I will visit you in jail.
Justin Well, you should start a petition or at least, start the process with IDOT. That's what Trib columnists are good for. Document it, create a FB page and tweet out your phone call transcripts.
Eric Do you know any homeless people who could pass the petitions for me? Cuz I know a guy who could "notarize" them, if you know what I mean.
Justin Hahah.
Eric You're laughing. Am I a clown? Do I amuse you?
Justin Yes, you do. Well, tough day in Chicago. Thanks for chatting about the prospect of giving Mr. Ron Santo a piece of Chicago, forever. We'll see if it catches on.
Eric Thanks. I am serious that I think this would be a great idea.
Justin:  Me too. Talk soon.