Monday, July 21, 2014

Ernie Banks makes an interesting comment about Ron Santo

While I was on vacation, I had a chance to read Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now?" issue. It's always a great read, full of interesting stories about sports figures of the past.

The cover story this year was about perhaps the greatest player in Cubs history, Ernie Banks, who hit 512 career home runs and earned consecutive National League MVP awards (1958-59) despite playing on mostly terrible teams throughout his 19-year career.

Banks was nearing the end of his career in 1969, when the Cubs had a nine-game lead as late as Aug. 16, only to spit it out and lose the NL pennant to the New York Mets. Naturally, Banks was asked about what happened for the SI article, and his answer was quite revealing. He pointed the finger right at fellow Hall of Famer Ron Santo.

"They say one apple can spoil the whole barrel, and I saw that," Banks told SI's Rich Cohen. "Before going to New York to play the big series against the Mets, I went to different players on our team and told them, 'We're going to New York, and when the game is over, there's going to be more media than you've ever seen in the clubhouse, so watch what you say.'

"So we get to New York, and lose the first game. Don Young dropped a fly ball, and that was it. We came into the locker room. I was next to Santo, and he just went crazy [blaming Young]. Young was so upset, he ran out. Pete [Reiser] had to bring him back. I had never seen something so hurtful."

Santo's comments ended up in the paper, and Banks said it caused a split in the locker room. The Cubs crumbled and lost the pennant by eight games.

For so many years in Chicago, we heard a lot of moral outrage about Santo being excluded from the Hall of Fame for so long. After his playing days were over, he became a beloved radio broadcaster -- mostly because he was an unapologetic homer for the Cubs -- and he was put on a pedestal because he raised a lot of money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

How could someone so great not be inducted into the Hall, people wondered? I would say comments like the one Santo made about Young that day in 1969 would be on the list of reasons why.

I always had the feeling that Santo was hated and despised by everyone who is not a Cubs fan, between his obnoxious heel-clicking after victories as a player, and some of the disrespectful comments he made about others at different points during his baseball career.

I'm not going to belabor the point, but if you were ever wondering why Santo wasn't inducted into the Hall until 2012 -- two years after his death -- now you know. He made his fair share of enemies in the game. You don't have to take it from me, you can take it from Ernie Banks, whose comment targets Santo as a central figure in the collapse of '69.

That's a take on 1969 that I don't think I had ever heard or read previously.

9 comments:

  1. Santo apologized privately and publicly to Don Young after that incident, so it's hard to see how it would have "divided the clubhouse." But even if it had, how would that explain much of anything. Losing leads to a divided clubhouse more than a divided clubhouse leading to losing.

    In the end, it was much more how well the Mets played than that the Cubs collapsed which led to the Cubs losing the division. The Mets finished the season 38-11 (.776), while the Cubs finished 18-27 (.400), 8 games behind the Mets. Suppose the Mets had merely had a (still excellent) .600 winning percentage over that span. Then they would have finished 91-71, a game behind the Cubs. Or suppose the Cubs had gone, instead of 18-27, a respectable 24-21 (.533), with no "collapse." They still would have lost with a record of 99-63 to the Mets 100-62.

    The idea that Santo's criticism of Young is somehow a key factor in the Cubs losing the division in 1969 is quite farfetched. That theory reverses cause and effect. A much better explanation is the manager's (Leo Durocher's) never resting his regular starting players.

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  2. What a trashy, baseless article. Neither Ernie Banks nor Don Young despised Santo. YOU clearly despise Santo, and never having read you before, I'm going to go ahead and assume you're a fan of some rival franchise.

    If you have any source that indicates that Ron Santo was despised around baseball, during his playing days or afterward, please post it. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

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  3. Ah, what a stunner! You're a fucking White Sox fan.

    Fuck you, scumbag. Have fun going nowhere fast. Have fun watching our all-star team the next several years and wishing you had our front office and our players.

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  4. I'd probably be angry too if I was going to die with no World Series.

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    1. Just came across this Jason Bauman. All I gotta say is... Bwahahahahahaha!

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  5. Look, I am a Santo fan from the mid-60's, and I was really pleased to see him get into the Hall of Fame, but a lot of players DID hate his guts for his comments and actions. They respected him, sure, but he was a darling to the home fans only. And, when he finished out his career with the White Sox, he was a mean, irritable SOB. He didn't want to be with the Sox, and he showed it at every opportunity. So why sugarcoat it? He was an intense ballplayer and a great one at that. Why the Hell does he have to be portrayed as a saint?

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  7. The real reason is doubleheaders.and Leo did not trust young players. NO young ares or replacements. Spangler? Abernathy? Ken johnson? Aguirre. Regan? Nate Oliver?

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