BY MICHELLE MILLER
Most of the Ron Santo remembrance celebration on Saturday consisted of storytelling making fun of his competitiveness, telling tales of how he’d throw his bat when he made an out and tear up the deck of cards if he lost at poker. Fun was made of about his hairpiece and fondness for having a good time.
SANTO IS GOOD FOR LAUGHS
According to Santo’s broadcast partner Pat Hughes, nobody could spend more than about 10 minutes with Santo and not laugh. He said Santo was always teasingmaking fun of one’s hair, clothing, socks, spending habits and more specifically Hughes’ sweater that he would keep in the booth in case he got cold. He would say he would rather freeze to death than barrow the sweater, Hughes said.
Everything was stolen from the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field, but not the sweater. Santo said not even a thief would steal that, Hughes recalled.
HAIRPIECE CATCHES FIRE
One time Santo’s hairpiece caught fire during a broadcast at Shea Stadium. Hughes said there was an old fashioned electric heater that glowed bright orange when turned on over their heads. He saidthe fire started when they were standing for the National Anthem.
“I heard him say something that sounded a little bit like shoot, then smelt something burning,” Hughes said. “Then I heard something sizzling like bacon in a pan.
I turn over and looked at my partner and Ron Santo’s hairpiece is on fire. Smoke is coming out the top of his head and he has this ridiculouslook on his face. And I did what any good partner would have done, I grabbed a cup of water and splashed it on his head to put out the flames.”
When asked how his hair looked, Hughes said he had to lie and say: “Ron it doesn’t look that bad to me.”
Hughes said it looked as though a professional golfertook a wedge and whacked a ball from right off the top of his head. Ironically the guy starting the game for the Mets that night was Al Leiter.
Hughes said he and Santo were about to broadcast a game in Arizona, and while having lunch in the press room there was a sign on a frozen yogurt machine that read: “Do not turn this machine on until gametime.”
Hughes, who was standing next to Santo, said Santo looked at the sing and said: “I cannot wait until game time. I have to broadcast, and besides, I’m Ron Santo.” Santo turned the machine on and filled a big cup, Hughes recalled.
“He has that look on his face like he felt like he was putting one up on someone,” Hughes said. “He felt kind of proud, kind of cocky.”
The joke was on Santo though. He could not get the machine to turn back off, according to Hughes.
So what does Santo do? Shook the machine, and ran away “like any other mature individual would have done,” Hughes said. “That was him,” he added. “Legends don’t clean up yogurt messes.”
JENKINS RECALLS HORSE RIDE
Some of the players had a day off in 1968, according to Ferguson Jenkins, and he, Santo and Billy Williams went to ride horses at a riding academy. Jenkins said he owned a horse ranch, so he had some experience riding a horse and did not consider himself to be bad at it.
Jenkins said he got the last pick of the horses, so he got stuck with a fat broodmare. During the ride, Jenkins said, the horse decided to take off on a run.
“I’m giving her her head and saying ‘look at me, I can ride,’” Jenkins recalled. Then, Jenkins said, his horse went right in the back of another horse, started backing up and decided to turn around and head back to the stables.
“Being the most intelligent guy that I am, I’m letting the horse go,” he said.
When almost to the stable, there was an asphalt track, according to Jenkins.
“I didn’t want to pull her up because if I go down with the horse I’m probably going to be the one to get hurt ,” he said. “All of the sudden I let her go and she goes to the left and I go to the right. OK, now I am in horse dung up to my neck and I have a badly bruised hip. My shoulder is stiff.”
Jenkins said when the guys got back they asked if he was OK. His response was that he was fine.
However, he said he could not walk. The others towed him away to the hospital in a pickup truck, according to Jenkins.
The next morning he had to go tell his manager, Leo Durocher. Jenkins said he asked Santo to be his spokesperson.
The manager was mad, Jenkins recalled. “Leo said, Mr. Jenkins if I owned this ball club, at the time it was 1968 and 10 cent stamps were popular, he said a 10 cent stamp couldn’t find you. You would be sent so far to the minor leagues,” he said.
It was 10 days before opening day, and Jenkins said he knew he would not be ready to pitch. He said heworked hard to come back, and pitched the second game of the season.
“I took a bunch of Tylenol and went out there and I beat Cincinnati, 4 to 1,” he said. In 1969 every player had to make every road trip because of that incident, Jenkins said.
BY MICHELLE MILLER
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