New Ron Santo Cubs Book Rates A ’10’

(With 24 Pages of
Great Photos!)

I just received my copy of Ron Santo: A Perfect 10, by Pat Hughes and Rich Wolfe (Lone Wolfe Press, $24.95). Wow! I read it all in one sitting. If you ever cheered for the inspiring third baseman or joined in the groans and gasps of his agony-to-ecstasy Cubs broadcasts, you’ll devour this title, too.

I don’t even believe the book has typical chapters from friends, family and co-workers. Instead, I think each chapter is more like an insightful letter — a personal correspondence with readers and one last love letter to Ron.

Most surprisingly, I found lots of autograph-related content in this pages, such as…

“After those games, on the ride home, fans would be everywhere,“ wrote son Ron Santo Jr. “Dad would sign autographs at every stop sign on our route through those Chicago neighborhood streets, all the way to the Kennedy.”

Broadcaster and co-author Pat Hughes wrote, “People would write us letters, not just about baseball, they’d write Ronnie letters telling him that their own child was suffering. Ron would read these stacks of fan mail and he’d take them on the road with us.” Sure enough, the eternal Cub would CALL the challenged families, offering a specific heart-to-heart talk with each diabetic child.

Son Jeff wrote of his dad’s pride and ego. “He would get fan mail and if any came in addressed to ‘Santos’ he would throw it in the garbage. ‘They don’t know who I am.’”

I was moved by the chapter by Adielene Santo, Ron’s older sister. She told of preparing to attend the wake after her brother’s funeral. She chose to greet and thank the fans standing behind barricades. “He loved you, and I know he’d want me out here.” Shockingly, some of the fans asked for her autograph, which she declined politely.

While Ron’s sister seemed forgiving of overzealous collectors, she witnessed the best in the days after her return home. “I got fan mail,” she said. “The letters I got were beautiful.”

When can an autograph be life-changing? I think Ron knew the answer. In the chapter by Suellen Johnson, who helped organize the first Ron Santo Walkathon for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF), she writes:

“One of my daughter’s prized possessions from 1979 is her baseball glove that reads, ‘Congratulations on doing your own shot. Your friend, Ron Santo.’”

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to JDRF. I can still hear Ronnie shouting, “This must be the year!” If I might borrow his microphone, let me add: “This must be the book!”

Harmon Killebrew + Uppity Ump Humble Chicago Hurler Ken Frailing!

Another matching autograph!
His sig still makes every letter count!

Pitcher Ken Frailing shared a sly sense of humor with me in his thoughtful reply.

While Frailing didn’t have the longest career, he spent it all in Chicago, going from the White Sox to the Cubs. I asked how it felt being part of the four-person deal to obtain legend Ron Santo on Dec. 11, 1973.

“Ron Santo was, and is, an icon in Chicago. We had met a few times. He was a great guy as well.

It was a real break for me. The Cubs needed left-handed pitching and I needed to be on another team. The Sox had great young arms, Rich Gossage and Terry Forster, for example.”

The Cubs got a quick return on their investment. Frailing worked in 55 games for the 1974 Cubbies. The stat shows just part of his workload, Frailing confirmed:

“I was up in over 100 games in 1974. I was tired at the end of the season.”

Frailing wasn’t an exclusive reliever for his new team. On May 27, 1974 (with thanks to, the lefty compiled an unusual complete-game win against the Giants at Wrigley Field. While he wasn’t the day’s most mystifying moundsman, Frailing put on a show at the plate: three hits and three RBI.

“I had a nifty 14-hitter and a complete game. I threw 158 pitches in that game.

I remember getting those hits and especially against a left-handed pitcher (Mike Caldwell).”

When Frailing summed up feelings about his career, he added one amazing bonus, writing:

“Baseball was a great part of my life. I really enjoyed my time and the memories are priceless.

Example: my major league debut in old Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t start any better than that.

Let me share one story from my career. 1972 — Chicago White Sox.

I am pitching to Harmon Killebrew. I got 1 ball, 2 strikes and throw a breaking ball over the heart of the plate. The umpire calls it a ball.

When the inning is over, I am walking to the dugout and the umpire meets me at the foul line and says, “Hey, rookie. Who do you think these people pay to see, you pitch, or Killebrew hit?”

I knew where I stood in the scheme of things.


Thanks for your interest. May God bless!

Ken Frailing”

Tomorrow: Happy 57th baseball anniversary, Tom Bradley!

Jim Woods, the Pre-Santo Cubs 3rd Baseman

Baseball begins at birth.

Chicago native Jim Woods appeared in just two games for the 1957 Cubs. Still, that’s better than no games for the millions of Chicago fans who dreamed of even one day appearing in uniform at Wrigley Field.

“Yes, I felt great being a Chicago boy and signing with the Cubs.

You see, they TRADED ME a few years later and WHAT do you think a Chicago boy felt?

But they had a Ron Santo there? Ha Ha.”

Woods didn’t note that he was an extra temptation added to the package sent to Philadelphia to acquire Phils legend Richie Ashburn.

Seeing that Woods hit three career homers, it’s impressive to note that he collected two off Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend. He noted:

“I DO NOT remember homer #2 off Bob Friend, why, I do not know. But #1, I HAVE THE BALL, since 9/20/60.”

Lastly, here’s a question I’ll be asking more often: Who was your roommate, and what was the most fun the two of you ever had on the road? From Woods, the query brought a heart-warming reply:

“Chris Short, a left-handed pitcher, was my roommate and I fixed him up with my sister on one visit to Chicago and visited my dad’s bar. He was a bartender, great days.


Thanks, Tom

Jim Woods”

Tomorrow: Surprising insights from Red Sox manager “The Other” Joe Morgan

Thanking Ron Santo…And Dick Allen?

The famed SI poster that
graced my closet door!

Ron Santo will always be my hero.

Thanks to regional TV broadcasts in Central Iowa, the first game I ever watched was a Cubs game. Jack Brickhouse adored Ronnie. How could anyone feel differently?

The closet on my bedroom wall was adorned with Santo’s Sports Illustrated poster, circa 1968-69. Imagine my heartbreak upon our move, when I realized that my parents had Elmer’s Glued Ron to the door.

The shock of the Santo trade to the White Sox prior to the 1974 season brought a surprising response from my Dad.

“If he’s in the American League now, I won’t mind the drive to Minnesota.”

For years, my folks grimaced over my yearly requests for a vacation to Chicago. Downtown Chicago? City driving?

The Twins, however, seemed like an off-ramp team. Metropolitan Stadium was as easy to reach as any roadside diner.

I’ll never forget hanging over the rail at the “Met.” No other fan was seeking pre-game autographs from the visitors. This geeky junior high schooler knew he may never get another chance to thank his hero.

Instead, all I saw was Dick Allen, pacing the dugout.

“Mister Allen,” I pleaded. “Would you ask Mister Santo to come out, please?  I came from Iowa. I’m a big fan!”

I thought the slugger might slug me. I heard a loud snort and groan. Or a growl? He spun and disappeared.

Seconds later, I saw Santo peer around the corner. Only his head emerged, in puppet-show fashion.

“Please, may I have your autograph?” I gushed. “Thank you for being my favorite player all these years. I’m from Iowa. My folks never wanted to drive all the way to Wrigley Field to see you play. This is closer!”

Yes, I said it all. Ron Santo borrowed my pencil and signed the cover of my Twins program. He restrained his grin, only nodding when I thanked him. He retreated to the shadows. I floated back to my seat.

Only this week did I realize that I got an assist in being face-to-face with my hero. From this day forward, I’ll always believe that mysterious, misunderstood Dick Allen made my case to his new teammate, asking him to take pity on an awestruck Iowan.

In the 1980s, I had a five-minute chat with Santo at a sports collectors show in Tacoma, Washington. He loved the story of the Minnesota autograph, without commenting on any role Allen may have played in that day. I thanked him for sharing his diabetes story with the baseball world. He seemed embarrassed at such praise. Why did he reveal his diabetes when he did?

“I never intended to keep it a secret,” he said to me. “I just didn’t want it to sound like an excuse.”

 Ron vetoed a trade to California in the winter of 1973. This time, I’m sure he’ll be a starting Angel.

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