This Old Cub

August 02, 2007 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Everyone makes mistakes, but this one of mine was inexcusable. When "This Old Cub" came out in 2004, it was slated for release in small venues only. It was advertised on the radio that it would be playing in Rockford, IL to start, a bit far to travel for an Iowa hick like myself. But when I heard it was going to be featured at The Brew & View in Rock Island, IL, just a hop, skip, and a jump from me, it felt like the planets were aligning. Beer, food and a documentary on a Cubs legend? How much better does it get than that? Well, I never made it.

Thanks to the miracle of NetFlix, my dream finally came true. Sure, it would have been better to see it on the big screen instead of a 13" TV, but you take what you can get. "This Old Cub", for those of you living in a hole for the last 4 or 5 years, is a look into the player, the announcer, and the man that Ron Santo is now and was in the past. The film was done by his son, Jeff Santo, and featured great, Zapruder-like, grainy film footage of early Santo and many interviews from celebrities and his peers on the diamond. Co-Producer and narrator, Joe Mantegna, shows his Chicago roots and takes us all through the journey.

TOC starts by tracing Ron's roots from a predominantly Italian neighborhood in Seattle, where he was a three sport athlete in high school. Ron states that his love was always baseball, and after high school, he chose to take less money to play for The Cubs because he thought it would be great to play with one of his baseball heroes, "Mr. Cub", Ernie Banks. It proves to be the first of many decisions Ron makes in his undying love for all things Chicago Cubs.

It seems the film takes two angles of Ron: a Hall of Fame candidate and someone living with type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. Intertwined between the film clips of his heroics on the field, Jeff Santo mixed in home footage of Ron coping and rehabbing after having his second leg amputated. Both of these clips show us the tenacity and hard work that Ron has always lived and played with. His "everyman" persona was really shown here, and backed up by people like Dennis Franz, Dennis Farina, Gary Sinise, Bill Murray, and others. All basically said, "We loved him because he played hard, and he looked like us out there!" Not just biased, Chicago celebrities touted Ron. His peers in the game also talked of his greatness, both in playing the game, and playing it while coping with diabetes, which Ron kept a secret during his first 12 seasons. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Johnny Bench, even know-it-all Joe Morgan talked of what a great player Ron was.

Overall, the film was great, one that I would classify as a must-see for any Cub fan. The best thing about the film was that it just let Ron be Ron. Many of his famous quotes from banter with Pat Hughes are featured, as well as stories of his days on the diamond, dealing with diabetes. Ron mentioned in one game, his blood sugar crashed, and he literally had triple vision, and hit a grand slam to win the game by taking the strategy of "I decided I'd swing at anything he threw". I could see how people would view this as a propaganda piece to get Ronnie in The Hall. I agree with that but choose not to care. Any baseball fan would enjoy this. Sure it gets a bit long and maybe the music sticks out a bit much, but it's a quality flick nonetheless. You owe it yourself to see this one.

Oh yeah, Thunder Matt Rating: 4.5 Thunderbolts out of 5