The old Cub has passed. Ron Santo died today at the age of 70. When I shouted the news to my wife this morning, she said “Oh no!“. And she’s not even a baseball fan. Santo is known throughout Chicago as one of the city’s great characters - one of these larger than life personalities that transcend their day jobs and hold a special place in Chicago’s heart. Julie never watched him play. She never listened to him broadcast a game. But she knew him.
WBEZ’s Tony Arnold is working on an obit for the air today. We were discussing the word you would use to describe Santo’s broadcast style. It’s hard to sum up. His visceral fist-pumping and emotional display would often say more about the game than the actual play. Santo’s broadcast style reminded me of two guys (Hughes & Santo) sitting on lawn chairs in the driveway with the garage door up. On the radio (dial broken), WGN 720.
So what word would you use? Folksy? Here are some others we threw out:
Colorful? For sure. But that sums up his character, I’m not sure his broadcast qualities.
Short? Yes, he was short with his words at times - but short is usually synonymous with angry or negative and he wasn’t.
A Homer? Yes, he championed the Cubs. But that doesn’t quite get to all of it.
Distracted? Again, negative. He did seem to wander at times, but that wasn’t the focal point. He was a very engaged broadcaster. Even if the details escaped him, his focus on each game and each play was intense.
Inarticulate - Sure, he did grunt and throw out emotional nonsense words (gotta love it), but he was not inarticulate.
Emotional: A given. The best broadcasters in baseball are emotional, regardless of the ‘objective’ trend sweeping the game.
Someone even threw in shambolic. What would you go with?
Maybe there isn’t a word. Perhaps Ron Santo was more than words.