Cubs Baseball Legend Ron Santo Dies, Will Be Remembered For How He Played Game Of Life

I only knew the Ron Santo that broadcast Cubs baseball games on WGN radio. His days of playing baseball had come and gone by the time he came to my attention.  What I came to know was that his love of the game was legendary. 

What first caught my attention about Ron Santo were the funny moments in the broadcast booth, which were many, and were aired over and over on the radio. 

When I first started to know about Ron Santo he was in the midst of all sorts of health problems.   From diabetes, to the amputation of his legs, heart problems, and cancer there was no end to the misery for Santo.

But we was always at the ballpark.  Always a professional when the microphone was on.   Always a major fan of the world-famous Chicago Cubs.  Ron Santo never complained, he just went forward and lived life.

There are some who inspire others just by being themselves.  Ron Santo was such a person. 

One did not need to love sports, baseball, or the Cubs to know by the actions of Ron Santo that life was worth living every day.  When you heard Santo you knew there was always far more good in the day than bad.

Late Thursday night Ron Santo died.

He will be missed by many.  Some will rightly say for the way he played baseball.  For many others, myself included, he will be remembered for how he played the game of life.

Godspeed, Ron.

WGN Radio Can Again Be Polite, Professional, Popular

Every now and then when I write this blog I am reminded that my interests are not exactly in the mainstream.   I am reminded weekly how marginalized some of my concerns and interests are.  That never stops me from going forward mind you, but the fact is not lost on me that I am not always sailing with much of the world.

I fully understand my limitations when writing about the days when newspapers were read by a large swath of the nation, or Saturday nights meant listening to the Grand Ole Opry.  I am aware that the best I can do is stress their value and move on.  It would be great if I could let every household experience the sound of the newspaper ‘thumping’ on the front stoop early every morning, or the sensation of pleasure as the big red curtain rises.  But the best I can do  from this blog is write about them.

But then there are issues such as WGN radio, where my desire to see the traditional role of the medium continue in this era of fast-paced technology, that reverberates with others.  My views about WGN have connected and resonated with many all over the country.  It is times like this I know there are countless who stand with me.  And I with them.

The past eighteen months have been rough ones for those who love WGN, that iconic radio station housed in the Tribune Tower.  Listeners revolted when new management ripped treasured on-air talent from the airwaves and ushered in loud political brawlers, or those who had no sense of what Chicago was all about.

Listeners had every right to feel that way.

Radio is after all about broadcasters being invited into the homes and cars of listeners.  People would no more want a boorish person lounging on their couch as they would desire a long-winded or rude person coming in through the speakers of their radio.  After all, radio personalities are guests, and should act accordingly.

I have worked in radio, and so I know I am correct when I say that guys like me were invited into the homes and cars of listeners.  I was the guest for a period of time, and acted liked one.  I was never rude or mean.  I tried to be funny and informative and friendly.  As such I was invited back over and over.  As were those who shared the microphone with me at WDOR in Sturgeon Bay.

That is what WGN once was, and I trust after the news this week will be again.  Listeners from some thirty states who can hear the station on the AM dial late at night, or those from the midwest who can listen 24/7 want to have a station again that is like what Wally Phillips would recognize.  Polite, professional, popular.

When James and I visit Chicago we always stay overnight on Ohio Street and make the magnificent mile our home base.  Late night walks up the amazing street means stopping in front of the Tribune Tower, and looking into the showcase studio.  At times on-air talent were there, other times they were broadcasting from inside the building.  Either way it was always a connection to the friendly voices on the radio.

For the past months the fond connection with WGN dwindled for me and much of the listener base.  But we have not forgotten what it once was like.  As such we are looking forward to the WGN family being restored  and renewed. 

My radio awaits the rebirth of this broadcasting giant.

Tombstone For Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny, The Man That Murdered WGN Radio

Former WGN on-air talent Steve Cochran, whose contract was not renewed this year, has posted this image on his website.   Story and image from Chicago Sun Times.

WGN Radio Sees Light, Fires ‘Pig Virus’ Kevin Metheny And Jim Laski, Listeners Can Smile!

WGN radio, a station that has been my home on the dial since a teenager, has finally seen the light.  I am pleased to learn that there has been a shake-up at Tribune Towers and the ‘pig virus’ has been flushed down the toilet.  (Hopefully the sewer does not throw him back into the street.)

The station that I heard as I fell asleep at night as a teenager, traveled with during the many hours back and forth to Sturgeon Bay, and have programmed on all my radios at home and in the car, is returning to their senses.  Like many I feel very attached to this station, an 86-year-old Chicago broadcasting institution, and have long cared for it.  After all, WGN was there in all the major events, elections, and long nights when I was not feeling well.  How could I not care for it?

How many folks around the country are as gleeful as I am over the news today?  Countless numbers to be sure. 

And all for one reason.

Kevin Metheny, the WGN-AM 720 program director whose abrupt moves to grow the audience grew a well of resentment among some long-time listeners, is leaving the station along with his most controversial hire, convicted former Chicago City Clerk Jim Laski.

Laski is of course, a story all to himself.

Laski served time in federal prison after pleading guilty to one of the two bribery counts against him, admitting he accepted nearly $50,000 to steer city trucking business to cronies. Some of those who might have forgiven that transgression were unable to overlook his choppy on-air style.

Of course the damage to so much of WGN still lingers.  On-air talents like Kathy and Judy and Steve Cochran have been ruined, and listeners have strayed.  Over the past many months I have posted many times on the sadness many feel about the blows this station has taken due to the jackasses that took over management.    Never before has a power-house of a radio station been so rocked with bad decisions and arrogant and incompetent leadership.

The mess was not only what we heard on the radio, but also the ones taking place right at the head of the Tribune Company.  I was pleased when Randy Michael’s , Tribune Company CEO, was fired recently.  He will be less fond of breasts, I suspect, in the future.

As one who worked in radio I know the bond that can develop between listener and on-air talent.  What has troubled me about the WGN moves over the past months is that the bond should not be in only one direction.  The radio station must care as much about the audience, as the audience does for the broadcasters.

WGN Radio forgot that lesson.

And paid a price.

When WGN hired Greg Jarrett  (a man I have said is at his best when the volume of the radio is off) from San Francisco, and midday host Mike McConnell from Cincinnati it was clear what they wanted.  There was less of a Chicago feel to the station.  Lacking was the inside knowledge and love of the city that morning on-air talent or mid-day hosts should bring to the air.

Today we can only hope that the end of the ‘pig virus” Kevin Metheny era will bring back sanity and good taste to a radio station that has been a broadcasting icon.  Lowering standards into the gutter with trash talk is not good for ratings.  It is not good for the industry.  It is not good for America.

The old-fashioned ideals that I have over the relationship that radio has played, and should continue to play in our country, has not dimmed due to the insanity of  Kevin Metheny and others who undermined  WGN.

I am confident that the lesson has been learned, and that a brighter day will return to WGN radio. 

Every WGN listener can smile today.