The Final Stage of Grief: Wrigley Field

Ron Santo deserved better.

I confess, when I learned of Ron Santo’s death last week, one of the very first emotions to bubble to the surface was anger, and it was directed at four main parties, three of which I openly cursed: death, diabetes, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The reasons for those three are obvious enough, so I won’t explain them. The fourth recipient of my ire, though, may have been the most intense and prevalent, and I’m not sure why I didn’t say anything about it right away.

I suppose I didn’t want to redirect my grief where it didn’t truly belong. Ron Santo was dead, and that was and is the truly sad part. It’s natural for us to deflect the blame to a target that might actually yield positive results. There was no shortage of people to rise up and make the case that Ron Santo deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s something that can still be changed. It’s too late to do it the right way, the way it should have been done decades ago, but it’s not too late to do the right thing, and that’s to honor Ron Santo as one of the greatest players ever to man the hot corner. But that won’t take away an ounce of the grief of his death. It’s not even what he really wanted.

If you think about what Ron really wanted before he died, you’ll see exactly where I’m going with this. The entity against whom I fumed in unspoken rage was the team Ron loved with all his heart, the team that had kept him on life support with nothing but ivy, hope, and generally subpar baseball. Yeah, I was mad at the Chicago Cubs for failing to deliver what was probably the only item left on Ron Santo’s bucket list: a World Series.

It’s just a game. It’s not important. To borrow from the classic film of the season, in the whole vast configuration of things, the Cubs are nothing but a scurvy little spider. The world doesn’t revolve around them . . . but Ron’s world did. As long as we’re talking in holiday movies, I’d compare Ron Santo’s wish for a Cubbie World Series to Natalie Wood’s hope in Miracle on 34th Street that Santa would prove to be real. Maybe it was just a glorified childhood fancy, but it was important to Ron, and Ron was important to us.

And really, Ron Santo wasn’t asking for a Miracle on Addison and Clark any more than he was asking for reindeer to fly or elves to travel at warp speed. All it really would have taken was for the Cubs organization to give two craps about how the team performed on the field. A lot of fans whine and moan about the sacrifices they’ve made for the Cubs, and it’s laughable. Not so with Ron Santo. The man gave a lot to the organization. He lost his legs waiting for a championship that never came.

Maybe it is stupid to bring it up. The Cubs’ failures aren’t the reason I’m sad about Ron Santo dying. But they do seem insulting to his memory. And as his memorial services almost literally revolve around his beloved Wrigley Field and his connection to the Cubs, a half-hearted, half-baked attempt at kinda sorta contending does very little to honor a man whose legacy is his utmost passion for the Cubs and excellence in the game of baseball.

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